What Should We Do When HIV-positive Children Fail First-line Combination Antiretroviral Therapy? A Comparison of 4 ART Management Strategies

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Background:Managing virologic failure (VF) in HIV-infected children is especially difficult in resource-limited settings, given limited availability of alternative drugs, concerns around adherence, and the development of HIV resistance mutations. We aimed to evaluate 4 management strategies for children following their first episode of VF by comparing their immunologic and virologic outcomes.Methods:We included children (< 16 years of age) with VF from 8 International Epidemiologic Database to Evaluate AIDS Southern Africa cohorts, initiating combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) between 2004 and 2010, who followed one of the 4 management strategies: continuing on their failing regimen; switching to a second-line regimen; switching to a holding regimen (either lamivudine monotherapy or other non-cART regimen); discontinuing all ART. We compared the effect of management strategy on the 52-week change in CD4% and log10VL from VF, using inverse probability weighting of marginal structural linear models.Results:Nine hundred eighty-two patients were followed over 54,168 weeks. Relative to remaining on a failing regimen, switching to second-line showed improved immunologic and virologic responses 52 weeks after VF with gains in CD4% of 1.5% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.2–2.8) and declines in log10VL of -1.4 copies/mL (95% CI, -2.0, -0.8), while switching to holding regimens or discontinuing treatment had worse immunologic (-5.4% (95% CI, -12.1, 1.3) and -5.6% (95% CI, -15.4, 4.1) and virologic outcomes (0.2 (95% CI, -3.6, 4.1) and 0.8 (95% CI, -0.6, 2.1), respectively.Conclusions:The results provide useful guidance for managing children with VF. Consideration should be given to switching children failing first-line cART to second-line, given the improved virologic and immune responses when compared with other strategies.

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