Lessons Learned from Use of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy in Africa

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Background.Because antiretrovirals are becoming increasingly available in developing countries, we reviewed the findings of studies that have documented highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) use in Africa to identify lessons learned. With the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines used as a frame of reference, we assessed the feasibility of implementing such programs in Africa. Moreover, clinical and laboratory outcomes were compiled to determine the effectiveness of HAART programs.Methods.We searched academic databases and recent conference abstracts for studies, and we included all studies that documented patients receiving HAART in Africa. In particular, we examined studies for such program features as type of regimen and frequency of monitoring, in addition to evaluations of patient outcomes.Results.Twenty-eight articles and abstracts involving studies from 14 African countries were reviewed. Overall, 6052 patients (96.4%) were receiving HAART, mainly consisting of 2 nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) and 1 nonnucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitor. All studies reported an increase in mean and median CD4 cell counts, and a median of 73% of patients achieved undetectable viral loads by the end of the study period. Monitoring of CD4 cell count and viral load at 6-month intervals was completed by all studies. The median weight gained was 5.0 kg, and the median mortality rate was 7.4% (range, 0%-27%). Six studies reported that 68%-99% of patients took >95% of medications. Five studies measured drug resistance; most cases of resistance involved NRTIs.Conclusions.Many studies reported positive health outcomes, including high levels of treatment adherence that were comparable to those of industrialized countries. Regimens and monitoring means based on WHO guidelines were implemented—and at times, exceeded—in all studies reviewed. We found compelling evidence that HAART can be feasibly administered in resource-limited settings.

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