What drives mortality among HIV patients in a conflict setting? A prospective cohort study in the Central African Republic
Crellen T., Ssonko C., Piening T., Simaleko MM., St. Calvaire DH., Gieger K., Siddiqui R.
Background: Provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) during conflict settings is rarely attempted and little is known about the expected patterns of mortality. The Central African Republic (CAR) continues to have a low coverage of ART despite an estimated 120,000 people living with HIV and 11,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2013. We present results from a cohort in Zemio, Haut-Mboumou prefecture. This region had the highest prevalence of HIV nationally (14.8% in 2010) and was subject to repeated attacks by armed groups on civilians during the observed period. Methods: Conflict from armed groups can impact cohort mortality rates i) directly if HIV patients are victims of armed conflict, or ii) indirectly if population displacement or fear of movement reduces access to ART. Using monthly counts of civilian deaths, injuries and abductions, we estimated the impact of the conflict on patient mortality. We also determine patient-level risk factors for mortality and how this varies with time spent in the cohort. Model-fitting was performed in a Bayesian framework, using generalised-linear models with terms accounting for temporal autocorrelation. Results: Patients were recruited and observed from October 2011 to May 2017. Overall 1631 patients were enrolled, giving 4107 person-years and 148 deaths. Our first model shows that patient mortality did not increase during periods of heightened conflict. The monthly risk (probability) of mortality was markedly higher at the beginning of the program (0.047 in November 2011 [95% credible interval; CrI 0.0078, 0.21]) and had declined greater than ten-fold by the end of the observed period (0.0016 in June 2017 [95% CrI 0.00042, 0.0036]). Our second model shows the risk of mortality for individual patients was highest in the first five months spent in the cohort. Male sex was associated with a higher mortality (odds ratio; OR 1.7 [95% CrI 1.2, 2.8]) along with the severity of opportunistic infections at baseline. Conclusions: Our results show that chronic conflict did not appear to adversely affect rates of mortality in this cohort, and that mortality was driven predominantly by patient specific risk factors. In areas initiating ART for the first time, particular attention should be focussed on stabilising patients with advanced symptoms.