Protocol for a randomised controlled implementation trial of point-of-care viral load testing and task shifting: The Simplifying HIV TREAtment and Monitoring (STREAM) study
Dorward J., Garrett N., Quame-Amaglo J., Samsunder N., Ngobese H., Ngomane N., Moodley P., Mlisana K., Schaafsma T., Donnell D., Barnabas R., Naidoo K., Abdool Karim S., Celum C., Drain PK.
Introduction: Achieving the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS 90-90-90 targets requires models of HIV care that expand antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage without overburdening health systems. Point-of-care (POC) viral load (VL) testing has the potential to efficiently monitor ART treatment, while enrolled nurses may be able to provide safe and cost-effective chronic care for stable patients with HIV. This study aims to demonstrate whether POC VL testing combined with task shifting to enrolled nurses is non-inferior and cost-effective compared with laboratory-based VL monitoring and standard HIV care. Methods and analysis: The STREAM (Simplifying HIV TREAtment and Monitoring) study is an open-label, non-inferiority, randomised controlled implementation trial. HIV-positive adults, clinically stable at 6 months after ART initiation, will be recruited in a large urban clinic in South Africa. Approximately 396 participants will be randomised 1:1 to receive POC HIV VL monitoring and potential task shifting to enrolled nurses, versus laboratory VL monitoring and standard South African HIV care. Initial clinic follow-up will be 2-monthly in both arms, with VL testing at enrolment, 6 months and 12 months. At 6 months (1 year after ART initiation), stable participants in both arms will qualify for a differentiated care model involving decentralised ART pickup at community-based pharmacies. The primary outcome is retention in care and virological suppression at 12 months from enrolment. Secondary outcomes include time to appropriate entry into the decentralised ART delivery programme, costs per virologically suppressed patient and cost-effectiveness of the intervention compared with standard care. Findings will inform the scale up of VL testing and differentiated care in HIV-endemic resource-limited settings. Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval has been granted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Biomedical Research Ethics Committee (BFC296/16) and University of Washington Institutional Review Board (STUDY00001466). Results: will be presented at international conferences and published in academic peer-reviewed journals. Trial registration NCT03066128; Pre-results.