Publications & Reports

The effect of monitoring viral load and tracing patients lost to follow-up on the course of the HIV epidemic in Malawi: A mathematical model.

Estill J, Kerr CC, Blaser N, Salazar-Vizcaya L, Tenthani L, Wilson, DP, Keiser, O


Background. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) reduces HIV transmission, but treated patients may again become infectious. We used a mathematical model to determine whether ART as prevention is more effective if viral load (VL) is routinely monitored and patients lost to follow-up (LTFU) traced.

Methods. We simulated ART cohorts to parameterize a deterministic transmission model calibrated to Malawi. We investigated the following strategies for improving treatment and retention: monitoring VL every 12 or 24 months, tracing patients LTFU, or a generic strategy leading to uninterrupted treatment. We tested 3 scenarios, where ART scale-up continues at current (Universal ART), reduced (Failed scale-up), or accelerated speed (Test&Treat).

Results. In the Universal ART scenario, between 2017 and 2020 (2050), monitoring VL every 24 months prevented 0.5% (0.9%), monitoring every 12 months prevented 0.8% (1.4%), tracing prevented 0.3% (0.5%), and uninterrupted treatment prevented 5.5% (9.9%) of HIV infections. Failed scale-up resulted in 25% more infections than the Universal ART scenarios, whereas Test&Treat resulted in 7%-8% less.

Conclusions. Test&Treat reduces transmission of HIV, despite individual cases of treatment failure and ART interruption. Whereas viral load monitoring and tracing have only a minor impact on transmission, interventions that aim to minimize treatment interruptions can further increase the preventive effect of ART.


  • Journal: Open Forum Infectious Diseases
  • Published: 27/04/2018
  • Volume: 5
  • Issue: 5
  • Pagination: ofy092