Pan African Medical Journal

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Virological failure on first-line antiretroviral therapy; associated factors and a pragmatic approach for switching to second line therapy–evidence from a prospective cohort study in rural South-Western Uganda, 2004-2011

Patrick Kazooba, Billy Nsubuga Mayanja, Jonathan Levin, Ben Masiira, Pontiano Kaleebu


Introduction: We investigated factors affecting Virological failure (VF) on first line Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) and evaluated a pragmatic approach to switching to second line ART. Methods: Between 2004 and 2011, we assessed adults taking ART. After 6 months or more on ART, participants with VL >1000 copies/ml or two successive VL > 400 copies/ml (Conventional VF) received intensified adherence counselling and continued on first-line ART for 6 more months, after which participants who still had VL > 1000 copies/ml (Pragmatic VF) were switched to second line ART. VF rates were calculated and predictors of failure were found by fitting logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards models. Results: The 316 participants accrued 1036 person years at risk (pyar), 84 (26.6%) had conventional VF (rate 8.6 per 100 pyar) of whom 28 (33.3%) had pragmatic VF (rate 2.7 per 100 pyar). Independent predictors of conventional VF were; alcohol consumption, (adjusted Hazard Ratio; aHR = 1.71, 95% CI 1.05-2.79, P = 0.03) and ART adherence: per 10% decrease in proportion of adherent visits, (aHR = 1.83, 95% CI 1.50-2.23; P < 0.001). Using reference age group < 30 years, among conventional failures, the adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of pragmatic failure for age group 30-39 years were 0.12, 95% CI 0.03-0.57, P = 0.02 and for age group > 40 years were 0.14, 95%CI 0.03-0.71, P = 0.02. Alcohol consumers had a threefold odds of pragmatic failure than non-alcohol consumers (aOR = 3.14, 95%CI 0.95-10.34, P = 0.06). Conclusion: A pragmatic VF approach is essential to guide switching to second line ART. Patient tailored ART adherence counselling among young patients and alcohol users is recommended.

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