Back in November 2016 the Swiss Public Health Conference took place in IJPH’s hometown Bern in Switzerland. IJPH was of course there and I live tweeted throughout the event (just look for the hashtag #SwissPH16 or click here for highlights and pictures). While I posted a picture of part of dinner we had at the end of the conference, I did not share the main (non-culinary) highlight of the dinner, as I thought it deserved a post on its own. It did, indeed, and here is this post, albeit with some delay!
During the dinner, Andreas Haas, post-doctoral research fellow and my office neighbour here at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern, was awarded the Swiss School of Public Helath+ (SSPH+) award for the best published PhD article in public health. Andreas’ winning paper is entitled “Retention in care during the first 3 years of antiretroviral therapy for women in Malawi’s option B+ programme: an observational cohort study” and was published in the Lancet HIV.
In his study, Andreas and colleagues assessed the retention to treatment of HIV positive pregnant and breast-feeding women who are treated under the option B+ programme in Malawi. The option B+ programme provides lifelong antiretroviral theray (ART) to these women increases coverage of prevention of mother-to-child transmissionservices, improves maternal health, and reduces transmission to serodiscordant sexual partners. In order for the programme to achieve its full benefits, however, women must stay on ART treatment for their whole lives. This is why it is important to assess whether their retention to treatment after giving birth or terminating breast-feeding, when the motivation to continue might be less (especially in women who start therapy before experiencing any symptoms). This study analyzed aggregated facility-level data from 546 health facilities and patient-level data from 20 facilities.
The study found that 69.7% of patients in option B+ were retained in care after 36 months (facility-level data). Patient-level data showed that patients in option B+ had higher risk for loss to follow up the first 2 years of ART. The authors conclude that “pregnant and breastfeeding women who start ART immediately after they are diagnosed with HIV can be retained on ART through the option B+ programme, even after many have stopped breastfeeding. Interventions might be needed to improve retention in the first year on ART in option B+”.
The award for this study was presented by our Editor in Chief and Director of the SSPH+, Nino Künzli, as you can see from the picture below. Congratulations to Andreas and thank you to the SSPH+ for supporting him at this important work!