Dramatic increase in HIV prevalence after scale-up of antiretroviral treatment


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Abstract

Objectives:To investigate HIV prevalence trends in a rural South African community after the scale-up of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in 2004.Methods:We estimated adult HIV prevalence (ages 15–49 years) using data from a large, longitudinal, population-based HIV surveillance in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, over the period from 2004 (the year when the public-sector ART scale-up started) to 2011. We control for selection effects due to surveillance nonparticipation using multiple imputation. We further linked the surveillance data to patient records from the local HIV treatment program to estimate ART coverage.Results:ART coverage of all HIV-infected people in this community increased from 0% in 2004 to 31% in 2011. Over the same observation period adult HIV prevalence increased steadily from 21 to 29%. The change in overall HIV prevalence is nearly completely explained by an increase of HIV-infected people receiving ART, and it is largely driven by increases in HIV prevalence in women and men older than 24 years.Conclusion:The observed dramatic increase in adult HIV prevalence can most likely be explained by increased survival of HIV-infected people due to ART. Future studies should decompose HIV prevalence trends into HIV incidence and HIV-specific mortality changes to further improve the causal attribution of prevalence increases to treatment success rather than prevention failure.

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