Original Research

HIV viraemia during pregnancy in women receiving preconception antiretroviral therapy in KwaDukuza, KwaZulu-Natal

Vuyokazi Ntlantsana, Richard J. Hift, Wendy P. Mphatswe
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 20, No 1 | a847 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v20i1.847 | © 2019 Vuyokazi Ntlantsana | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 March 2018 | Published: 10 April 2019

About the author(s)

Vuyokazi Ntlantsana, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Richard J. Hift, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Wendy P. Mphatswe, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Background: Preconception antiretroviral therapy (PCART) followed by sustained viral suppression is effective in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The rates of persistent and transient viraemia in such patients have not been prospectively assessed in South Africa.

Objectives: We determined the prevalence of transient and persistent viraemia in HIV-positive women entering antenatal care on PCART and studied variables associated with viraemia.

Methods: We performed a prospective cross-sectional observational study of HIV-positive pregnant women presenting to a primary healthcare facility in KwaZulu-Natal. All had received at least 6 months of first-line PCART. Viral load (VL) was measured, patients were interviewed, adherence estimated using a visual analogue scale and adherence counselling provided. Viral load was repeated after 4 weeks where baseline VL exceeded 50 copies/mL.

Results: We enrolled 82 participants. Of them, 59 (72%) pregnancies were unplanned. Fifteen participants (18.3%) were viraemic at presentation with VL > 50 copies/mL. Of these, seven (8.5%) had viral suppression (VL < 50 copies/mL), and eight remained viraemic at the second visit. Adherence correlated significantly with viraemia at baseline. Level of knowledge correlated with adherence but not with lack of viral suppression at baseline. Socio-economic indicators did not correlate with viraemia. No instances of vertical transmission were observed at birth.

Conclusions: Approximately 20% of women receiving PCART may demonstrate viraemia. Half of these may be transient. Poor adherence is associated with viraemia, and efforts to encourage and monitor adherence are essential. The rate of unplanned pregnancies is high, and antiretroviral therapy programmes should focus on family planning needs of women in the reproductive age group to prevent viral non-suppression prior to pregnancy.



Preconception Antiretroviral Therapy; HIV; Viraemia; Antenatal Care; Adherence


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Crossref Citations

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