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How Safe is HIV Serosorting for Men who have Sex with Men?

HIV “serosorting” -- in which HIV positive people have unprotected sex only with other positive people, and negative people only with other negatives -- has been proposed as a strategy for reducing the risk of HIV transmission. The method is far from foolproof, however, requiring that individuals accurately know and honestly convey their current status.

Antiretroviral Therapy during Pregnancy Significantly Reduces Mother-to-child HIV Transmission, but is Linked to Low Birth Weight

Since the mid-1990s, it has been known that prophylactic use of certain antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy -- namely zidovudine (AZT; Retrovir) and nevirapine (Viramune) -- dramatically reduces the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission. However, outcomes in women who use triple combination antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy are less well characterized.

In a report published in the September 12, 2008 issue of AIDS, researchers with the French/African Ditrame Plus and MTCT-Plus Projects studied pregnancy outcomes in 326 HIV-1-infected pregnant women receiving antiretroviral therapy in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.

Between March 2001 and July 2003, HAART was not yet available, and women who would have been eligible for combination therapy based on their own disease status instead received a short-course of zidovudine (with or without lamivudine) plus a single dose of nevirapine during labor to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT group; n = 175). Between August 2003 and August 2007, women eligible for HAART received combination therapy (HAART group; n = 151). All infants received zidovudine and nevirapine after birth, and women were advised to either feed formula or exclusively breast-feed (shown to be safer than mixed feeding of breast milk plus other foods). Median CD4 cell counts were similar in the 2 groups (177 vs 182 cells/mm3, respectively).

The researchers recorded the frequencies of low birth weight (<2500 g), very low birth weight (below 2000 g), stillbirth, and infant mortality within the first year. Risk factors associated with low birth weight were investigated using a logistic regression model.

Results

• At 12 months, 3 infants (2.3%) became infected with HIV in the HAART group compared with 25 infants (16.1%) in the PMTCT group (P < 0.001).

• The rate of very low birth weight was similar in the 2 groups.

• The rate of low birth weight was nearly twice as high in HAART group compared with the PMTCT group (22.3% vs 12.4%; P = 0.02).

• In a multivariable analysis, after adjusting for maternal CD4 count, WHO disease stage, age, and body mass index (BMI), the following factors were significantly associated with low birth weight:

• HAART initiated before pregnancy (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 2.88);

• HAART started during pregnancy (AOR 2.12);

• Low maternal BMI at the time of delivery (AOR 2.43).

• The rate of stillbirth was similar in both groups, at about 3%.

• The overall infant mortality rate during the first year was about 7%.

• Low birth weight and HAART use were not associated with a greater risk of infant death, though being HIV infected led to greater mortality.

Based on these findings, the study authors concluded that "HAART in pregnant African women with advanced HIV disease substantially reduced mother-to-child transmission, but was associated with low birth weight."

HIV transmission is less likely to occur when viral load is fully suppressed, and mothers are more likely to achieve undetectable viral load with combination HAART than with only zidovudine/nevirapine.

Given the highly significant reduction in the rate of HIV infection in babies born to women on HAART, and given that low birth weight infants were not more likely to die, this study indicates that the benefits of HAART for pregnant women outweigh the risks.

9/23/08

Reference

DK Ekouevi, PA Coffie, R Becquet, and others. Antiretroviral therapy in pregnant women with advanced HIV disease and pregnancy outcomes in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. AIDS 22(14): 1815-1820. September 12, 2008 (Abstract).

AIDS 2008: Protective Effect of Circumcision against HIV Infection Is Sustained for Nearly 2 Years

Over the past two years, it has become increasingly clear that adult circumcision helps protect men from acquiring HIV. As previously reported recent studies have shown that circumcision reduced the rate of HIV infection by as much as 60% in high-prevalence countries in Africa. At the XVII International AIDS Conference last week in Mexico City, researchers who conducted one of the pivotal African studies in Kisumu, Kenya, reported follow-up data showing that the benefits appear to be long-lasting.

AIDS 2008: Didanosine (Videx EC) + Emtricitabine (Emtriva) + Atazanavir (Reyataz) Inferior for Initial HIV Treatment: PEARLS Trial

For a variety of reasons, physicians may recommend an alternative initial antiretroviral regimen rather than one of the first-line regimens recommended by current treatment guidelines. A once-daily regimen of didanosine (ddI; Videx-EC), emtricitabine (Emtriva), and unboosted atazanavir (Reyataz) has potential advantages over other alternative regimens, but the efficacy of this combination is unknown.

Agencies Release New Report on State of HIV Prevention Across the U.S.

The Kaiser Family Foundation and the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) has released a new report assessing the status of HIV prevention efforts in the U.S., at a time of increasing budget constraints.

AIDS 2008: Pregabalin vs Placebo for the Treatment of Painful HIV-associated Peripheral Neuropathy

Painful peripheral neuropathy remains a significant problem for many HIV/AIDS patients and there are few palliative or otherwise helpful therapies for this serious adverse event that may be associated with antiretroviral drug treatment, HIV infection itself, or both.

Pregabalin, an anti-epileptic drug, has previously demonstrated efficacy in several neuropathic pain syndromes. The FDA has approved Pfizer's pregabalin (Lyrica) for the treatment of fibromyalgia.

At the XVII International AIDS Conference last week in Mexico City, David Simpson of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City presented results from the first trial to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of pregabalin as a treatment for pain associated with HIV sensory neuropathy.

This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial included 302 participants, 151 allocated to receive pregabalin and 151 to receive placebo. At baseline, the mean pain score was about 6.93 for the pregabalin arm and 6.72 for the placebo arm.

There were 4 phases: 1-2 week screening, 2-week double-blind dose-adjustment (150-600 mg/day taken twice-daily), 12-week double-blind maintenance, and 1-week tapering off. Overall average daily dosage of pregabalin was 385.7 mg/day.

The primary efficacy measure was mean pain score using an 11-point numeric rating scale completed daily by patients; weekly man pain score was a supplemental analysis.

Results

• At weeks 1 and 2, patients taking pregabalin had significantly greater improvements in mean pain score relative to placebo:

• Week 2: -1.92 vs 1.43; P = 0.0393.

• In an analysis of PGIC scores, more patients taking pregabalin said their condition had improved, and fewer said it had worsened (P = 0.0077):

• 13.3% and 25.4%, respectively, experienced "no change."

• The most common adverse events (AEs) in the pregabalin arm were somnolence (23.2% pregabalin vs 8.6% placebo) and dizziness (19.2% vs 10.6%, respectively).

• Seven patients (4.6%) in the pregabalin group and 2 patients (1.3%) in the placebo group discontinued because of treatment-related AEs.

Based on these findings, the study authors concluded, "Pregabalin and placebo were associated with substantial improvements in pain and PGIC, with no significant difference in endpoint mean pain score. Adverse events were consistent with the tolerability profile of pregabalin in other neuropathic pain clinical trials."

Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY; Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals, New York, NY.

8/15/08

Reference

DM Simpson, TK Murphy, E Durso-De Cruz, and others. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial of pregabalin vs placebo in the treatment of neuropathic pain associated with HIV neuropathy. XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008). August 3-8, 2008. Mexico City. Abstract THAB0301.

AIDS 2008: Are Abacavir/lamivudine (Epzicom) and Tenofovir/emtricitabine (Truvada) Equally Effective?

With more than 20 antiretroviral drugs to choose from, one of the most frequently asked questions is what is the best regimen to start with in terms of efficacy and safety? Currently 2 nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) backbones are recommended by U.S. HIV treatment guidelines as part of a first-line regimen: abacavir/lamivudine (Epzicom) and tenofovir/emtricitabine (Truvada; also combined with efavirenz in the Atripla pill). While lamivudine and emtricitabine are similar in their structure, activity, and side effects, the differences between abacavir and tenofovir are of more interest.

ACTG A5202

As previously reported, AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) study A5202 was modified earlier this year after interim data showed that among patients who started with a high viral load (100,000 copies/mL or more), abacavir/lamivudine did not suppress HIV as well as tenofovir/emtricitabine when both were used in combination with either efavirenz (Sustiva) or ritonavir-boostedatazanavir (Reyataz).

At the XVII International AIDS Conference last week in Mexico City, investigators reported data from an analysis of the high viral load patients, who were unblinded after the interim results became known.

This Phase IIIb study initially enrolled 1858 treatment-naive participants, 797 of whom had HIV RNA > 100,000 copies/mL at screening. Most (85%) were men, about half were white, and one-quarter each black and Hispanic. The mean CD4 count was 181 cells/mm3. The median follow-up period was 60 weeks.

Virological failure was defined as confirmed viral load > 1,000 copies/mL at or after 16 weeks and before 24 weeks, or else HIV RNA > 200 copies/mL at or after 24 weeks. The 16-week time frame was unusual in ACTG 5202, as most trials to not report virological response before 24 weeks.

Results

• In an intent-to-treat analysis, time to virological failure was significantly shorter in the abacavir/lamivudine arm than in the tenofovir/emtricitabine arm (HR 2.33; p = 0.0003).

• There were no differences between the arms with regard to CD4 cell changes.

• Patients receiving abacavir/lamivudine had a shorter time to emergence of grade 3/4 adverse events (AEs) compared with those taking tenofovir/emtricitabine (HR 1.87; p < 0.0001).

• Suspected drug hypersensitivity reactions were reported in 7% of participants taking each NRTI backbone.

• There were 2 cases of kidney failure in each arm.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded, "In subjects entering A5202 with screening HIV RNA > 100,000 copies/mL, there was a significantly shorter time to virological failure and grade 3/4 adverse events" among those randomized to abacavir/lamivudine compared with tenofovir/emtricitabine.

Presenter Paul Sax noted that many of the adverse events were small lipid changes that were "unlikely to be clinically significant." Participants in this trial did not receive HLA-B*5701 genetic screening for susceptibility to abacavir hypersensitivity reactions, since the test had not been validated when the study started. The frequency of suspected hypersensitivity in both arms was high, suggesting that site investigators were highly vigilant since they did not know who was taking abacavir.

Comparisons of the NRTI backbones in the still-blinded lower HIV RNA stratum (< 100,000 copies/mL at baseline), and each regimen's third drug (efavirenz or boosted atazanavir) in both viral load strata, are ongoing.

Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA; University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA; University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, MD; ACTG Operations Center, Social & Scientific Systems Inc., Silver Spring, MD; Frontier Science & Technology Research Foundation Inc., Amherst, MA; Bristol-Myers Squibb, New York, NY; Gilead Sciences, Inc., Foster City, CA; GlaxoSmithKline, Research Triangle Park, NC; Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Park, IL; Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, CA.

GSK Analysis

After the interim ACTG 5202 results were released, abacavir manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) performed an analysis of other clinical trials of abacavir/lamivudine-containing regimens that employed the same efficacy endpoint as ACTG5202 -- including the unusually short 16-week time point -- in order to assess the impact of baseline viral load on virological response.

The investigators looked at 48-week efficacy outcomes from 6 clinical trials including a total of 2940 antiretroviral-naive patients, analyzing the data by baseline viral load strata (again, <100,000 or > 100,000 copies/mL). Along with their NRTIs, participants took efavirenz or various boosted protease inhibitors.

The efficacy endpoint was time to virological failure, defined as in ACTG 5202. The safety endpoint was time to onset of the first grade 3/4 sign, symptom, or laboratory abnormality that was at least 1 grade higher than baseline.

Results

• Virological response also did not differ significantly among patients with a high viral load.

• At 96 weeks, abacavir/lamivudine and tenofovir/emtricitabine remained comparable with respect to virological response.

• Median CD4 gains at week 96 were similar, about 450 cells/mm3 in both arms.

• Lipid changes were similar in both arms.

• Looking at biomarkers associated with inflammation, levels of high sensitivity C reactive protein (hsCRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) fell slightly after starting therapy, and changes were similar in both groups.

The HEAT investigators concluded that "[Abacavir/lamivudine] is comparable to [tenofovir/emtricitabine] in virologic efficacy and safety when combined with lopinavir/ritonavir through 96 weeks. Both treatment regimens were well tolerated with few discontinuations due to adverse events in either arm."

It remains unclear why ACTG 5202 and HEAT produced disparate results, and further study is needed to definitively say which of these 2 backbones is superior if terms of efficacy and safety, or whether for all practical purposes they are the equal.

Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; GlaxoSmithKline, Research Triangle Park, NC; Southwest Infectious Disease Associates, Dallas, TX; North Texas Infectious Disease Consultants, Dallas, TX; ID Consultants, Charlotte, NC; Georgetown University, Washington, DC.

8/12/08

References

P Sax, C Tierney, A Collier, and others. ACTG 5202: shorter time to virologic failure with ABC/3TC than TENOFOVIR/FTC in treatment-naive subjects with HIV RNA >100,000. XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008). Mexico City. August 3-8, 2008. Abstract THAB0303. (Abstract)

K Pappa, J Hernandez, B Ha, and others. ABC/3TC shows robust virologic responses in ART-naive patients for baseline (BL) viral loads of >100,000c/mL and <100,000c/mL by endpoint used in ACTG5202. XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008). Mexico City. August 3-8, 2008. Abstract THAB0304. (Abstract)

KY Smith, D Fine, P Patel, and others. Similarity in efficacy and safety of abacavir/lamivudine (ABC/3TC) compared to tenofovir/emtricitabine (TENOFOVIR/FTC) in combination with QD lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r) over 96 weeks in the HEAT study. XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008). Mexico City. August 3-8, 2008. Abstract LBPE1138.