Timing of pregnancy, postpartum risk of virologic failure and loss to follow-up among HIV-positive women

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Abstract

Objectives:

We assessed the association between the timing of pregnancy with the risk of postpartum virologic failure and loss from HIV care in South Africa.

Design:

This is a retrospective cohort study of 6306 HIV-positive women aged 15–49 at antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation, initiated on ART between January 2004 and December 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Methods:

The incidence of virologic failure (two consecutive viral load measurements of >1000 copies/ml) and loss to follow-up (>3 months late for a visit) during 24 months postpartum were assessed using Cox proportional hazards modelling.

Results:

The rate of postpartum virologic failure was higher following an incident pregnancy on ART [adjusted hazard ratio 1.8, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.1–2.7] than among women who initiated ART during pregnancy. This difference was sustained among women with CD4+ cell count less than 350 cells/μl at delivery (adjusted hazard ratio 1.8, 95% CI: 1.1–3.0). Predictors of postpartum virologic failure were being viremic, longer time on ART, being 25 or less years old and low CD4+ cell count and anaemia at delivery, as well as initiating ART on stavudine-containing or abacavir-containing regimen. There was no difference postpartum loss to follow-up rates between the incident pregnancies group (hazard ratio 0.9, 95% CI: 0.7–1.1) and those who initiated ART in pregnancy.

Conclusion:

The risk of virologic failure remains high among postpartum women, particularly those who conceive on ART. The results highlight the need to provide adequate support for HIV-positive women with fertility intention after ART initiation and to strengthen monitoring and retention efforts for postpartum women to sustain the benefits of ART.

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