Objectives: To investigate HIV prevalence trends in a rural South African community after the scale-up of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in 2004.
Methods: We estimated adult HIV prevalence (ages 15-49 years) using data from a large, longitudinal, population-based HIV surveillance in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, over the period from 2004 (the year when the public-sector ART scale-up started) to 2011. We control for selection effects due to surveillance nonparticipation using multiple imputation. We further linked the surveillance data to patient records from the local HIV treatment program to estimate ART coverage.
Results: ART coverage of all HIV-infected people in this community increased from 0% in 2004 to 31% in 2011. Over the same observation period adult HIV prevalence increased steadily from 21 to 29%. The change in overall HIV prevalence is nearly completely explained by an increase of HIV-infected people receiving ART, and it is largely driven by increases in HIV prevalence in women and men older than 24 years.
Conclusion: The observed dramatic increase in adult HIV prevalence can most likely be explained by increased survival of HIV-infected people due to ART. Future studies should decompose HIV prevalence trends into HIV incidence and HIV-specific mortality changes to further improve the causal attribution of prevalence increases to treatment success rather than prevention failure.