At today’s Research meeting, Dr Mwate Joseph Chaila and Besa Mwale from ZAMBART presented the Year 1 progress of the PopART study which is being implemented in Zambia and South Africa.
The HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 071 trial, Population Effect of Universal HIV Testing and Immediate ART To Reduce HIV Transmission (PopART) is being conducted in Zambia by ZAMBART and in sites in South Africa.
PopART is one of the first studies to test the ‘Universal Test and Treat (UTT) approach on a population level which could be an important intervention to prevent HIV infection.
It is hypothesised that universal voluntary HIV testing with appropriate combination prevention offered to all those testing HIV negative in addition to immediate ART for all those testing HIV positive will have a substantial impact on HIV incidence at the population level. The trial is important because a rigorously designed and conducted trial can measure the costs and benefits of this strategy and provide reliable evidence on cost-effectiveness to health policy makers.
The main PopART trial is on track and the sub-components looking at: i) the uptake of home-based testing offered by trained community workers, ii) the role of clinic-based health care workers in HIV stigma, iii) the uptake and acceptability of UTT in adolescents, and iv) health economics looking at the cost effectiveness of UTT versus standard of care have all been launched.
One tricky challenge that the Zambia PopART team say they have experienced in Year 1 is to successfully and consistently link all men who have tested HIV positive to ART care. ZAMBART has initiated community mobilisation strategies and weekend activities aimed to reach the men and encourage them to seek care at ART clinics to address this issue.
PopART is expected to be completed in 2018.