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Prevalence of delayed antiretroviral therapy initiation among people living with HIV: A systematic review and meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2023 Oct 24;18(10):e0286476. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0286476. eCollection 2023.


OBJECTIVE: HIV continues to be a global challenge. Key recommendations for HIV prevention and treatment are presented on rapid antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation. However, several studies showed a high prevalence of delayed ART initiation. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to assess the prevalence of delayed ART initiation among HIV-infected patients globally.

METHODS: This review summarised eligible studies conducted between January 2015 and August 2022 on the prevalence of delayed ART initiation in HIV-infected adults (age ≥ 15). Relevant studies were systematic searched through PubMed/Medline, EMBASE, Web of Science, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Wanfang, and Chongqing VIP databases. Random-effects models were used to calculate pooled prevalence estimates. The heterogeneity was evaluated using Cochran’s Q test and I2 statistics. Moreover, potential sources of heterogeneity were explored using univariate subgroup analysis.

RESULTS: Data on the prevalence of delayed ART initiation was pooled across 29 studies involving 34,937 participants from 15 countries. The overall pooled prevalence of delayed ART initiation was 36.1% [95% confidence interval (CI), 29.7-42.5%]. In subgroup analysis, the estimated pooled prevalence decreased with age. By sex, the prevalence was higher among male patients (39.3%, 95% CI: 32.2-46.4%) than female (36.5%, 95% CI: 26.9-50.7%). Patients with high CD4 cell count were more likely to delay ART initiation than those with low CD4 cell count (>500cells/mm3: 40.3%; 201-500cells/mm3: 33.4%; and ≤200cells/mm3: 25.3%).

CONCLUSIONS: Our systematic review and meta-analysis identified a high prevalence of delayed ART initiation. The prolonged time interval between diagnosis and treatment is a prevalent and unaddressed problem that should spur initiatives from countries globally. Further research is urgently needed to identify effective strategies for promoting the early ART initiation.

PMID:37874794 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0286476

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