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Challenges and Opportunities in HIV/AIDS

Challenges and Opportunities in HIV/AIDS

Katbi, M., Fom, T., Adedoyin, A., Klindera, K., Asaolu, O., Magaji, D., Agweye, A., & Faturiyele, I. (2023)


Background: Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is recommended for people at substantial risk of acquiring HIV to prevent new infections. The Nigeria PEPFAR program through USAID funded the implementation of PrEP for Key Population (KP) groups including Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM), People who inject drugs (PWIDS), and Female sex Workers (FSW) in July 2020. We assessed the number of new infections averted and the financial resources saved because of this intervention.

Methodology: HIV-negative clients from the key population community in North- East Nigeria eligible for PrEP were enrolled over a 7-month period (July 2020 – February 2021). Eligibility criteria used include being at substantial risk for HIV infection based on a screening test administered. The person-month was calculated by using the duration the participants were retained on PrEP. The incidence 15.4/100 person-years of HIV among MSM at high risk of HIV infection in the TRUST study conducted in Nigeria was used to calculate the expected positive cases if PrEP was not provided for those enrolled using the formula (15.4/100 * X) where X is number of person-years. We compared the expected positive to the actual positive seen among KPs while on PrEP within the study period. The cost-effectiveness of being on PrEP was calculated by multiplying the standard cost per HIV infection averted ($13, 267 per HIV infection averted) by the No of HIV averted.

Results: We enrolled a total of 1,197 eligible HIV-negative KPs within the study period (189 were retained for seven months, 407 for four months, 585 for 3 months, and 18 for 1 month). A total of 4722 person-months (394 person-years) were accumulated over the period of the study. Using the incidence of 15.4/100 person-years, the expected positive cases if PrEP was not provided was 61 (15.4/100 *394). With the use PrEP, no client seroconverted to be HIV positive. This means that within the 7-month period, 61 HIV infections were averted. At the cost of $13,267 per HIV infection averted for PrEP, the project saved $809,287 for averting 61 HIV infections in seven months of using PrEP among HIV-negative KPs involved in high-risk behaviors.

Conclusion: This study shows that PrEP is effective in averting new infections among key population groups. Placing high-risk groups such as KPs on PrEP is cost-effective due to the money saved from new infections averted. Increased funding for proven and innovative strategies on PrEP enrolment, retention, and adherence of eligible clients should be expanded for KPs.

Urada, L. A., McClung, M., Brocklin, R., & Blumenthal, J. (2022b)


Background: Peer navigation is an evidence-based model for engaging and retaining women living with HIV in medical care. Participants of an adapted Lotus peer navigation group intervention were hypothesized to have more self-perceived HIV self-care and advocacy behaviors following their participation than non-Lotus participants at an agency serving cisgender women and their families affected by HIV in San Diego, California.

Methods: The peer navigation intervention, Lotus, was adapted to include new modules on substance use, human trafficking, and intimate partner violence and piloted to compare its overall effects with a comparison group (2018-2019). Ninety-five cisgender women living with HIV (WLWH) completed posttest surveys measuring their perceived changes in peer advocacy and self-advocacy following their participation in a pilot of an adapted Lotus. Participants of the four-session Lotus group intervention (n=34) were compared to non-Lotus participants who engaged in other types of group activities at the agency (n=61). The Lotus group participants included a cohort of cisgender women > 50 years old, English and Spanish speaking women, and a mixed age and race/ethnicity group. All clients of Christie’s Place, an organization for women living with HIV in San Diego, were eligible if they were not actively using illicit substances substances in the past year. Cross-sectional bivariate analyses were run to determine differences between intervention and comparison groups. The groups were not randomized.

Results: Among 95 participants, 17% were White, 14% Black/African American, 44% Hispanic/Latino, and 25% Other/Mixed race/ethnicity with median age 51 years (IQR: 45-60). Eleven Latina, 9 White, 6 Black/African American, and 8 Other/Mixed individuals participated in Lotus. In bivariate analyses, Lotus WLWH living with HIV at posttest took their HIV medications correctly (p=0.040) and attended their healthcare/other service appointments as advised/scheduled 3 times more often than non-Lotus WLWH (p=0.014). They advocated for themselves within medical and social service settings 6 times more often (p<0.001) and talked openly with their doctor 4 times more often (p=0.028). They were also twice as likely to talk more often with their partner about safer sex (p=0.022) and PrEP (p=0.037) and a peer about safer sex (p=0.001). They were 3 times more likely to help a peer understand how HIV medications can improve their health (p=0.001). Medical records showed all Lotus intervention participants as virally suppressed one year after their participation.

Conclusions: Participants of an HIV peer navigation intervention experienced significant changes in self-reported self-advocacy outcomes. Peer navigation training interventions remain critical for medication adherence and self-advocacy among cisgender WLWH.

De Oliveira, D. C., Cecilio, H., Apostolidis, T., Da Costa, T. R., Hipólito, R., De Oliveira, D., Domingues, J. O., Stefaisk, R., Machado, Y., Gomes, A. M. T., & Marques, S. C. (2022)


Background: Time perspective can be an important variable for the understanding the quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Aims: The objective was to examine the relation between quality of life and time perspective among persons living with HIV receiving care from public health services in Brazil.

Methods: Data were collected at four public health services in Brazil. Hierarchical regression analyses were then performed for each of six quality of life domains.

Results: The subscales associated with high quality of life in physical and level of independence domains were low past-negative and high future orientation; psychological and environmental domains were low past-negative, high past-positive and high future orientations; social relations domain were high past-positive and high future orientations; and spirituality, religion and personal beliefs domain was low past-negative orientation.

Conclusion: The hypothesis that time constructs have implications for the experience of the disease and for evaluation of quality of life was proven determined by positive orientations like future and past-positive and past-negative orientation.

Figueiredo, I., Martins, M., Midões, C., & Ferrão, J. (2022)


Opportunistic infections affect patients with immunocompromised status and are caused by common microorganisms with more severe presentations, or atypical organisms that do not cause disease in the immunocompetent. The type of infection varies with the type of immune dysfunction.

Patients with cell-mediated immune dysfunction tend to be infected with a range of viral infections, intracellular bacteria, and fungi. This contrasts to patients with defects in humoral immunity, where infections with encapsulated bacteria, and enteric organisms such Giardia lamblia and enteroviruses predominate. Patients with phagocytic defects are especially prone to infections with Gram-negative bacteria and fungi, whilst those with complement disorders are prone to recurrent infections with encapsulated bacteria. In contrast to patients with primary immunodeficiencies, which usually present with only one defect of the above, acquired immunodeficiencies present with a variety of those, and clinical presentations are diversified.

The epidemic of HIV and AIDS shed some light into infections that were before extremely rare, by making them frequent, but with the advent of anti-retroviral therapy their clinical presentation has shifted. Also, the emergence of novel immunotherapies for cancer and autoimmune diseases, allied with an increase in organ transplant has increased the pool of immunosuppressed patients without HIV, which present differently regarding opportunist infections.

Rapid and specific microbiologic diagnosis is essential. Newer microbiologic assays have improved the diagnosis and management of opportunistic infections.

Our aim was to revise and summarize the most frequent opportunist infections, and how their presentation and course compares in different immunosuppressed diseases (HIV and non-HIV).

Lisziewicz, R., Oviedo, F., Szász, A., Ferres, J. L., Lori, F., & Lisziewicz, J. (2023)


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the development of efficient diagnostic tools to predict T-cell responses, which are crucial for viral clearance and protection against reinfection. Current diagnostic tests lack the ability to predict the epitope repertoire of an individual that induces T-cell responses.

Methods: We developed VERDI, a new machine learning-based diagnostic tool that leverages the sequence data of all the six HLA class I alleles of an individual to rank all putative epitopes based on their potential to induce T-cell responses. VERDI was trained on a comprehensive clinical dataset of 920 SARS-CoV-2 epitopes and validated using an independent dataset collected for the FDA-approved T-detect COVID test. We compared VERDI’s performance with existing HLA-allele-based models through statistical analyses.

Results: Our findings reveal that VERDI’s top-ranked epitopes accurately represent the individual’s epitope repertoire that participates in T-cell responses. VERDI outperformed current models, improving T-cell response prediction recall by threefold and precision by eightfold. It exhibited exceptional diagnostic accuracy, precision, and recall in predicting the potency of the top 20 epitopes. Despite experimental limitations that allow testing of only 1% of putative epitopes, VERDI accurately predicted 30% of these, implying a potentially higher accuracy if broader testing were feasible. Notably, the mean potency of the top-ranked epitopes predicted by VERDI, which reflects the strength of an individual’s SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell responses, exhibited a Gaussian distribution.

Conclusions: VERDI is the first diagnostic tool that uses the complete HLA genotype data to predict the breadth and strength of an individual’s T-cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Its ability to accurately identify the potency of epitopes involved in individual T-cell responses and its superior performance compared to the state-of-the-art make it a new resource for personalized vaccine design and disease management.