A systematic review and meta-analyses on initiation, adherence and outcomes of antiretroviral therapy in incarcerated people

Terefe Fuge, George Tsourtos, Emma Miller

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Background Incarcerated people are at increased risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection relative to the general population. Despite a high burden of infection, HIV care use among prison populations is often suboptimal and varies among settings, and little evidence exists explaining the discrepancy. Therefore, this review assessed barriers to optimal use of HIV care cascade in incarcerated people. Methods Quantitative and qualitative studies investigating factors affecting linkage to care, ART (antiretroviral therapy) initiation, adherence and/or outcomes among inmates were systematically searched across seven databases. Studies published in English language and indexed up to 26 October 2018 were reviewed. We performed a narrative review for both quantitative and qualitative studies, and meta-analyses on selected quantitative studies. All retrieved quantitative studies were assessed for risk of bias. Meta-analyses were conducted using RevMan-5 software and pooled odds ratios were calculated using Mantel-Haenszel statistics with 95% confidence interval at a p<0.05. The review protocol has been published at the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO; Number: CRD42019135502). Results Of forty-two studies included in the narrative review, eight were qualitative studies. Sixteen of the quantitative studies were eligible for meta-analyses. The narrative synthesis revealed structural factors such as: a lack of access to community standard of HIV care, particularly in resource limited countries; loss of privacy; and history of incarceration and re-incarceration as risk factors for poor HIV care use in prison populations. Among social and personal characteristics, lack of social support, stigma, discrimination, substance use, having limited knowledge about, and negative perception towards ART were the main determinants of suboptimal use of care in incarcerated people. In the meta-analyses, lower odds of ART initiation was noticed among inmates with higher baseline CD4 count (CD4 ≥500celss/mm 3) (OR = 0.37, 95%CI: 0.14-0.97, I 2 = 43%), new HIV diagnosis (OR = 0.07, 95%CI: 0.05- 0.10, I 2 = 68%), and in those who lacked belief in ART safety (OR = 0.32, 95%CI: 0.18-0.56, I 2 = 0%) and efficacy (OR = 0.31, 95%CI: 0.17-0.57, I 2 = 0%). Non-adherence was high among inmates who lacked social support (OR = 3.36, 95%CI: 2.03-5.56, I 2 = 35%), had low self-efficiency score (OR = 2.50, 95%CI: 1.64,-3.80, I 2 = 22%) and those with depressive symptoms (OR = 2.02, 95%CI: 1.34-3.02, I 2 = 0%). Lower odds of viral suppression was associated with history of incarceration (OR = 0.40, 95%CI: 0.35-0.46, I 2 = 0%), reincarceration (OR = 0.09, 95%CI: 0.06-0.13, I 2 = 64%) and male gender (OR = 0.55, 95% CI: 0.42-0.72, I 2 = 0%). Higher odds of CD4 count <200cells/mm 3 (OR = 2.01, 95%CI: 1.62, 2.50, I 2 = 44%) and lower odds of viral suppression (OR = 0.20, 95%CI: 0.17-0.22, I 2 = 0%) were observed during prison entry compared to those noticed during release. Conclusion Given the high HIV risk in prison populations and rapid movements of these people between prison and community, correctional facilities have the potential to substantially contribute to the use of HIV treatment as a prevention strategy. Thus, there is an urgent need for reviewing context specific interventions and ensuring standard of HIV care in prisons, particularly in resource limited countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0233355
Number of pages27
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2020

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • antiretroviral therapy
  • incarcerated people
  • systematic review
  • meta-analysis
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)


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