Risks and benefits of lifelong antiretroviral treatment for pregnant and breastfeeding women: a review of the evidence for the Option B+ approach


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Abstract

Purpose of reviewConsiderable debate has emerged on whether Option B+ (B+), initiation of lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all pregnant and breastfeeding women, is the best approach to achieving elimination of mother-to-child-transmission. However, direct evidence and experience with B+ is limited. We review the current evidence informing the proposed benefits and potential risks of the B+ approach, distinguishing individual health concerns for mother and child from program delivery and public health issues.Recent findingsFor mothers and infants, B+ may offer significant benefits for transmission prevention and maternal health. However, several studies raise concerns about the safety of ART exposure to fetuses and infants, as well as adherence challenges for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. For program delivery and public health, B+ presents distinct advantages in terms of transmission prevention to uninfected partners and increased simplicity potentially improving program feasibility, access, uptake, and retention in care. Despite being more costly in the short-term, B+ will likely be cost effective over time.SummaryThis review provides a detailed analysis of risks and benefits of B+. As national programs adopt this approach, it will be critical to carefully assess both short-term and long-term maternal and infant outcomes.

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