Third-line antiretroviral therapy in Africa: effectiveness in a Southern African retrospective cohort study

Background An increasing number of patients in Africa are experiencing virologic failure on second-line antiretroviral therapy (ART) and those who develop resistance to protease inhibitors (PI) will require third-line ART, but no data on the outcomes of third-line are available from the region. We assessed the virologic outcomes and survival of patients started on salvage ART in a Southern African private sector disease management programme.Methods Retrospective observational cohort study with linkage to the national death register. Adults (≥18years) who started salvage ART between July 2007 and December 2011 were included. Salvage ART was defined by inclusion of darunavir or tipranavir in an ART regimen after having failed another PI. For Kaplan–Meier (KM) analysis, patients were followed up until event, or censored at death (only for virologic outcomes), leaving the programme, or April 2014.Results152 patients were included. Subtype was known for 113 patients: 111 (98%) were infected with subtype C. All 152 had a genotype resistance test demonstrating major PI resistance mutations. Salvage drugs included were: darunavir/ritonavir (n=149), tipranavir/ritonavir (n=3), raltegravir (n=58), and etravirine (n=8). Median follow-up was 2.5years (IQR=1.5–3.3). 82.9% achieved a viral load ≤400 copies/ml and 71.1% ≤50 copies/ml. By the end of the study 17 (11.2%) of the patients had died. The KM estimate of cumulative survival was 87.2% at 2000days.ConclusionsVirologic suppression was comparable to that demonstrated in clinical trials and observational studies of salvage ART drugs conducted in other regions. Few deaths occurred during short term follow-up. Third-line regimens for patients with multidrug resistant subtype C HIV in Africa are virologically and clinically effective.