Early Antiretroviral Therapy in Resource Limited Settings in Patients with High CD4+ Cell Counts
A study of antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation under a "streamlined model of care" in HIV-positive patients with CD4+ cell counts greater ≥ 250 cells/uL.
After dramatic progress in recent years, HIV care for patients in resource limited settings stands at a crossroads. Governments, non-governmental organizations and charitable foundations are placing increasing scrutiny on the programmatic costs associated with delivering antiretroviral therapy (ART). Given these realities, if the global ART roll-out is to continue successfully, we must develop innovative new ways of providing HIV care and ART that are more efficient, more cost-effective, and tightly integrated within country-level health systems. We must treat more patients with fewer resources, and we need sustainable simple models for ART delivery.
These goals can be accomplished building on several existing knowledge points. First, initiating ART at earlier disease stages and at higher CD4+ cell counts may prevent irreversible immunologic damage, prevent opportunistic infections and non-AIDS-associated morbidities, and may prevent death. Second, ART initiation at higher CD4+ cell counts is less complex, triggers fewer complications, and is less costly to healthcare systems. Third, patients responding to therapy and doing well require fewer physician-administered follow-up visits. This can allow for "task-shifting" to non-MD providers, and the establishment of tiered healthcare delivery down the spectrum of medical acuity. Fourth, the lack of viral load monitoring is responsible for major structural problems in how we deliver ART, causing delays in recognizing ART failure, preventing clinicians from diagnosing HIV drug resistance, and making the decision to switch a patient to a new ART regimen very error-prone.
We propose here a pilot study that will address and investigate all of the above critical issues. This study will focus exclusively on asymptomatic patients with CD4 cell counts ≥250 cells/uL. These relatively healthier individuals are well suited to a more streamlined approach to ART delivery and healthcare provision.