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HIV-1 virologic failure and acquired drug resistance among first-line antiretroviral experienced adults at a rural HIV clinic in coastal Kenya: a cross-sectional study

Amin S Hassan1*, Helen M Nabwera1, Shalton M Mwaringa1, Clare A Obonyo2, Eduard J Sanders13, Tobias F Rinke de Wit45, Patricia A Cane6 and James A Berkley13

Author Affiliations

1 KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya

2 Kilifi District Hospital, Kilifi, Kenya

3 Centre for Clinical Vaccinology & Tropical Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

4 PharmAccess Foundation, Amsterdam, Netherlands

5 Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands

6 Health Protection Agency, London, UK

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AIDS Research and Therapy 2014, 11:9  doi:10.1186/1742-6405-11-9

Published: 23 January 2014



An increasing number of people on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in sub-Saharan Africa has led to declines in HIV related morbidity and mortality. However, virologic failure (VF) and acquired drug resistance (ADR) may negatively affect these gains. This study describes the prevalence and correlates of HIV-1 VF and ADR among first-line ART experienced adults at a rural HIV clinic in Coastal Kenya.


HIV-infected adults on first-line ART for ≥6 months were cross-sectionally recruited between November 2008 and March 2011. The primary outcome was VF, defined as a one-off plasma viral load of ≥400 copies/ml. The secondary outcome was ADR, defined as the presence of resistance associated mutations. Logistic regression and Fishers exact test were used to describe correlates of VF and ADR respectively.


Of the 232 eligible participants on ART over a median duration of 13.9 months, 57 (24.6% [95% CI: 19.2 – 30.6]) had VF. Fifty-five viraemic samples were successfully amplified and sequenced. Of these, 29 (52.7% [95% CI: 38.8 – 66.3]) had at least one ADR, with 25 samples having dual-class resistance mutations. The most prevalent ADR mutations were the M184V (n = 24), K103N/S (n = 14) and Y181C/Y/I/V (n = 8). Twenty-six of the 55 successfully amplified viraemic samples (47.3%) did not have any detectable resistance mutation. Younger age (15–34 vs. ≥35 years: adjusted odd ratios [95% CI], p-value: 0.3 [0.1–0.6], p = 0.002) and unsatisfactory adherence (<95% vs. ≥95%: 3.0 [1.5–6.5], p = 0.003) were strong correlates of VF. Younger age, unsatisfactory adherence and high viral load were also strong correlates of ADR.


High levels of VF and ADR were observed in younger patients and those with unsatisfactory adherence. Youth-friendly ART initiatives and strengthened adherence support should be prioritized in this Coastal Kenyan setting. To prevent unnecessary/premature switches, targeted HIV drug resistance testing for patients with confirmed VF should be considered.

HIV; Virologic failure; Acquired drug resistance; Correlates; Rural; Kenya