Objective: Viral load monitoring has been proposed as a tool to reinforce adherence, but outcomes have never been systematically assessed.
Design: A meta-analysis was conducted to systematically analyze the research on viral load monitoring as a tool to reinforce adherence. Viremic resuppression is defined here as a decrease in viral load beneath a particular threshold following viral load levels that have been elevated despite antiretroviral treatment.
Methods: Six databases were searched for studies published up to November 2012, which reported the use of viral load monitoring as a tool to identify patients in need of adherence support. Three conference abstract sites were reviewed for studies reported in the last 2 years. Randomized and quasi-randomized trials and observational studies, were eligible. No language or geographical restrictions were applied.
Results: Six retrospective and 2 prospective observational studies reported data from 8 countries: South Africa, the United States, Thailand, Mali, Burkina Faso, Swaziland, India, and France. Five studies reported on viremic resuppression, with a pooled estimate of 70.5% (95% confidence interval: 56.6% to 84.4%) resuppressed. The remaining 3 studies all reported declines in mean viral load. Delayed onset of routine viral load monitoring was associated with the emergence of drug resistance.
Conclusions: The clear trend of resuppression, following viral load testing and adherence support, demonstrates the utility of viral load as a tool to identify patients in need of enhanced adherence support.