OBJECTIVES: The Covid-19 pandemic's impact on initiation and effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in people diagnosed with HIV remains unclear. We evaluated critical delays in HIV care in people diagnosed before and during the pandemic in ex-Aquitaine, France.
METHODS: We considered adults diagnosed with HIV-1 in 2018-2021 and enrolled in the ANRS CO3 AQUIVIH-NA and followed them until 10/10/2022 for those diagnosed during the pandemic (1/4/2020 - 31/12/2021) and until 31/03/2020 for historical controls. We compared their characteristics at inclusion and the median time between diagnosis and ART initiation, ART initiation and viral suppression and diagnosis and virological suppression (effective management).
RESULTS: 83 individuals were diagnosed during the pandemic versus 188 during the pre-pandemic period. Median follow-up was 549 (IQR: 329-713) days. Populations were similar in terms of sex, age, HIV transmission group, hospital type, and clinical characteristics at diagnosis, however, fewer were foreign-born during the pandemic (15.7% versus 33.5%, p=0.003). The probability of ART initiation, therapeutic success, effective management was higher in PLWH diagnosed during the pandemic in adjusted analyses (HR 2.0 95%CI. 1.5-2.7, HR 1.7 95%CI. 1.2-2.3, HR 1.8 95%CI. 1.3-2.6, respectively). Those diagnosed during the pandemic were 2.3 (95%CI: 1.2-4.1) times more likely to be virologically suppressed within 6 months of diagnosis compared to historical controls.
CONCLUSIONS: Pandemic-related reorganizations may have resulted in newly diagnosed PLWH being prioritized, however, the lower proportion of foreign-born PLWH diagnosed during the pandemic period, likely due to reduced migration and potential delays in diagnosis, may contribute to these preliminary findings.
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