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Long-term effects of unintended pregnancy on antiretroviral therapy outcomes among South African women living with HIV

Brittain, Kirstya,b; Phillips, Tamsin K.a,b; Zerbe, Allisonc; Abrams, Elaine J.c,d; Myer, Landona,b

doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000002139
Epidemiology and Social

Objective: Unintended pregnancies are common among women living with HIV, but there are no data on their long-term impact on treatment outcomes. In a cohort of women initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART) during pregnancy, we examined the association between the intendedness of the current pregnancy, measured antenatally, and elevated viral load up to 5 years postpartum.

Design: Prospective study with enrolment at entry into antenatal care and follow-up at study visits separate from routine care.

Methods: At enrolment women completed the London Measure of Unplanned Pregnancy. Mixed effects models examined the impact of the intendedness of the pregnancy (planned versus each of unplanned or ambivalent, respectively) on viral load 50 or more copies/ml across postpartum study visits.

Results: Overall, 459 women were followed for a median of 43 months postpartum, contributing 2535 viral load measures (median per woman: 6). Ambivalent and unplanned pregnancy were commonly reported (20 and 60%, respectively), and the proportion of women with elevated viral load increased over time (16% at 6 weeks to 43% by 36–60 months postpartum). Compared with those reporting a planned pregnancy, elevated viral load was more common among women reporting an unplanned pregnancy (odds ratio: 2.87; 95% confidence interval: 1.46–5.64), with a trend towards a higher odds among those reporting ambivalence (odds ratio: 2.19; 95% confidence interval: 0.97–4.82); associations persisted after adjustment for a wide range of demographic, clinical and psychosocial factors.

Conclusion: These novel data suggest that unplanned pregnancy may be a prevalent and persistent predictor of poor ART outcomes among women initiating ART during pregnancy.

aDivision of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, and

bCentre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology & Research, School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

cICAP, Mailman School of Public Health

dVagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.

Correspondence to Kirsty Brittain, Division of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town Faculty of Health Sciences, Falmouth Building, Anzio Road, Observatory, Cape Town 7925, South Africa. E-mail:

Received 3 November, 2018

Revised 17 December, 2018

Accepted 21 December, 2018

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