Objective: In a rural Ugandan community scaling up antiretroviral therapy (ART), we sought to determine if population-based HIV RNA levels [population viral load (VL)] decreased from 2011 to 2012.
Design: Serial cross-sectional analyses (May 2011 and May 2012) of a defined study community of 6300 persons in a district with HIV prevalence of 8%.
Methods: We measured HIV-1 RNA (VL) levels on all individuals testing positive for HIV during a 5-day high-throughput multidisease community health campaign in May 2012 that recruited two-thirds of the population. We aggregated individual-level VL results into population VL metrics including the proportion of individuals with an undetectable VL and compared these VL metrics to those we previously reported for this geographic region in 2011.
Results: In 2012, 223 of 2179 adults were HIV-seropositive adults (10%). Overall, among 208 of 223 HIV-seropositive adults in whom VL was tested, 53% had an undetectable VL [95% confidence interval (CI): 46 to 60], up from 37% (95% CI: 30 to 45; P = 0.02) in 2011. Seven (3%) individuals had a VL of >100,000 copies/mL in 2012, down from 21 (13%) in 2011 (P = 0.0007). Mean log (VL) (geometric mean) was 3.18 log (95% CI: 3.06 to 3.29 log) in 2012, down from 3.62 log (95% CI: 3.46 to 3.78 log) in 2011 (P < 0.0001). Similar reductions in population VL were seen among men and women.
Conclusions: Reductions in population VL metrics and a substantial increase in the proportion of persons with an undetectable VL were observed in a rural Ugandan community from 2011 to 2012. These findings from a resource-limited setting experiencing rapid ART scale-up may reflect a population-level effectiveness of expanding ART access.