7.1.2 When to start ART in pregnant and breastfeeding women

Consolidated ARV guidelines, June 2013

Clinical considerations and key research gaps

Clinical considerations

Section 10.6 (Implementation considerations for key recommendations, Box 10.4) discusses clinical and implementation considerations relevant to programme managers for moving towards lifelong ART for all pregnant and breastfeeding women. A toolkit for managing the transition to lifelong ART for pregnant and breastfeeding women has been developed (98), including a readiness assessment checklist (Annex 6).

Key research gaps

The Guidelines Development Group emphasized the need for more research to support the new recommendations, to inform programmatic decisions and to promote optimal implementation. Key research gaps include the following.

ARV toxicity surveillance. Additional research is needed on the safety and acceptability of lifelong ART for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and their infants, especially in lowresource settings, where malnutrition and comorbidities are more common than in resourcerich countries and monitoring capacity is limited. Better data are needed on mothers’ health outcomes, pregnancy outcomes (such as stillbirth, low birth weight and prematurity) birth defects and health outcomes for infants and young children (see Box 7.2).

Maternal and child health outcomes. Research is needed to better define the long-term outcomes in terms of both mother-to-child transmission at the end of breastfeeding and maternal health. In addition to short-term outcomes (such as impact on early mother-tochild transmission rates, which are now commonly measured at six weeks), assessments of long-term outcomes with maternal ART are critical to measure final transmission rates at the end of breastfeeding and HIV-free survival; the health of the mother and children infected or uninfected with HIV; retention in care (for those with both low and high CD4 counts); the longterm success of first-line ART; and HIV drug resistance.

Adherence and retention. Research is needed to determine how to optimize acceptability, adherence and retention on ART in pregnant and breastfeeding women, including among the women initiating lifelong ART who do not meet current eligibility criteria for their own health. Research is also needed on health systems and community interventions to optimize lifelong ART for pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV, and the potential impact of different ART initiation strategies in different populations.