Brittain K, Mellins CA, Remien RH, Phillips TK, Zerbe A, Abrams EJ, Myer L.
J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2019 Mar 29. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000002036. [Epub ahead of print]
HIV-status disclosure is widely encouraged by counselling services, in part because it is thought to improve antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence and thus HIV viral suppression. However, few longitudinal studies have examined the impact of disclosure on HIV viral load (VL) during pregnancy and postpartum.
We explored these associations among 1187 women living with HIV, enrolled between March 2013 and June 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Among women who tested HIV-positive before pregnancy, we observed no association between disclosure and VL at entry into antenatal care among those already on ART, nor at delivery and 12 months postpartum among those initiating ART. Among women who tested HIV-positive during pregnancy and initiated ART subsequently, disclosure to a male partner was associated with a reduced risk of VL ≥50 copies/mL at delivery [adjusted risk ratio (aRR): 0.56; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.31-1.01]. After stratification by relationship status, this association was only observed among women who were married and/or cohabiting. In addition, disclosure to ≥1 family/community member was associated with a reduced risk of VL ≥50 copies/mL at 12 months postpartum (aRR: 0.69; 95% CI: 0.48-0.97) among newly-diagnosed women.
These findings suggest that the impact of disclosure on VL is modified by three factors: (i) timing of HIV diagnosis (before versus during the pregnancy); (ii) relationship to the person(s) to whom women disclose; and (iii) in the case of disclosure to a male partner, relationship status. Counselling about disclosure may be most effective if tailored to individual women’s circumstances.