A major concern with using antiretroviral (ARV)-based products for HIV prevention is the potential spread of drug resistance, particularly from individuals who are HIV-infected but unaware of their status. Limited data exist on the prevalence of HIV infection or drug resistance among potential users of ARV-based prevention products.
A cross-sectional study of reproductive-aged women who presented to screen for an HIV prevention trial was conducted at 7 clinical sites in Durban, South Africa. CD4+T cell counts, HIV-1 RNA levels and population sequencing of the protease and reverse transcriptase genes were performed for all women with 2 positive HIV rapid tests. Resistance mutations were identified using the Stanford Calibrated Population Resistance Tool.
Of the 1073 evaluable women, 400 (37%) were confirmed as HIV-infected. Of those, plasma HIV-1 RNA was detectable in 365/400 (91%) and undetectable (<40 copies/ml) in 35/400 (9%) women. 156 women (39%) were eligible for antiretroviral therapy (CD4+T cell counts<350 cells/mm^3) and 50 (13%) met criteria for AIDS (CD4<200 cells/mm^3). Of 352 plasma samples (>200 copies/ml) analyzed for drug resistance, 26 (7.4%) had nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI), non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) or protease inhibitor (PI) drug resistance mutations. Among those with resistance, 18/26 participants (62%) had single-class NNRTI resistance and 5/26 (19%) had dual-class NRTI/NNRTI. Major mutations in reverse transcriptase included K65R(n = 1), L74I(n = 1), K103N(n = 19), V106M(n = 4), Y181C(n = 2), M184V(n = 4), and K219E/R(n = 2). Major PI-resistance mutations were rare: M46L(n = 1) and I85V(n = 1). All participants were infected with subtype C virus, except one infected with subtype A.
In women from Durban, South Africa screening for an HIV prevention trial, the HIV prevalence was high (37%) and HIV drug resistance prevalence was above 5%. This study highlights the potential challenges faced when implementing an ARV-based prevention product that overlaps with first-line antiretroviral therapy. Effective screening to exclude HIV infection among women interested in uptake of ARV-based HIV prevention will be essential in limiting the spread of ARV resistance.