Ten Year Trends in Community HIV Viral Load in Barbados: Implications for Treatment as Prevention

Mar 2013
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Authors: R. Clive Landis, Songee Lynn Branch-Beckles, Shawna Crichlow, Ian R. Hambleton, Anton Best

Background: Treatment as prevention is a paradigm in HIV medicine which describes the public health benefit of antiretroviral therapy (ART). It is based on research showing substantial reductions in the risk of HIV transmission in persons with optimally suppressed HIV-1 Viral Loads (VL). The present study describes ten year VL trends at the national HIV treatment unit and estimates VL suppression at a population level in Barbados, a Caribbean island with a population of 277,000, an estimated adult HIV prevalence of 1.2%, and served by a single treatment unit.

Conclusions: We have demonstrated a significant trend towards optimal VL suppression in clients utilizing the services of the national HIV treatment program in Barbados over a 10-year period. Estimates of VL suppression at a population level are similar to reports in developed countries that applied similar methodologies and this could suggest a public health benefit of ART in minimizing the risk of sexual transmission of HIV. Continued efforts are warranted to extend HIV testing to hidden populations in Barbados and linking infected persons to care earlier in their disease.