Background: In pregnancy, reduction of HIV plasma viral load (pVL) for the prevention of vertical transmission is time-constrained. The study primary objective is to investigate factors associated with faster initial HIV RNA half-life decay when combination antiretroviral treatment (cART) is initiated in pregnancy.
Methods: This was a multicentre, retrospective, observational study, conducted in south England, United Kingdom, between August 2001 and February 2018. Data were extracted from case notes of eligible women initiating cART during the index pregnancy. Anonymised data were collated and analysed centrally. Regression analyses were conducted to determine factors associated with faster HIV RNA half-life decay in the first 14 days after commencing cART (first-phase), and with achieving an undetectable maternal pVL by 36 weeks' gestation. We then assessed whether HIV- and obstetric- related parameters differed by antiretroviral third agent class and whether the proportions of women with undetectable pVL at 36 weeks' gestation and at delivery differed by antiretroviral third agent class.
Results: Baseline pVL was the only independent factor associated with faster first-phase HIV RNA half-life decay on commencing cART. Lower pVL on day 14 after starting cART was associated with an increased likelihood of achieving an undetectable pVL by 36 weeks' gestation. Integrase inhibitor-based cART was associated with a faster first-phase HIV RNA half-life decay on commencing cART. Overall, 73% and 85% of women had an undetectable pVL at 36 weeks' gestation and at delivery respectively, with no significant difference by antiretroviral third agent class.
Conclusions: Only high baseline pVL independently contributed to a faster rate of first-phase viral half-life decay. pVL at 14 days after initiating cART allows early identification of treatment failure. In the first 14 days after initiating cART in pregnancy, integrase inhibitor-based cART reduced maternal pVL faster than protease inhibitor- and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase-based cART. While our study findings support INSTI use when initiated in pregnancy especially when initiated at later gestations and in those with higher baseline pVL, other non-INSTI based cART with more data on safety in pregnancy also performed well.
Keywords: Antiretroviral therapy; Monitoring; Novel observations; Treatment outcomes.