Introduction Magnitude and frequency of HIV viral load blips in resource-limited settings, has not previously been assessed. This study was undertaken in a cohort from a high income country (Australia) known as AHOD (Australian HIV Observational Database) and another cohort from a mixture of Asian countries of varying national income per capita, TAHOD (TREAT Asia HIV Observational Database). Methods Blips were defined as detectable VL (≥ 50 copies/mL) preceded and followed by undetectable VL (<50 copies/mL). Virological failure (VF) was defined as two consecutive VL ≥50 copies/ml. Cox proportional hazard models of time to first VF after entry, were developed. Results 5040 patients (AHOD n = 2597 and TAHOD n = 2521) were included; 910 (18%) of patients experienced blips. 744 (21%) and 166 (11%) of high- and middle/low-income participants, respectively, experienced blips ever. 711 (14%) experienced blips prior to virological failure. 559 (16%) and 152 (10%) of high- and middle/low-income participants, respectively, experienced blips prior to virological failure. VL testing occurred at a median frequency of 175 and 91 days in middle/low- and high-income sites, respectively. Longer time to VF occurred in middle/low income sites, compared with high-income sites (adjusted hazards ratio (AHR) 0.41; p<0.001), adjusted for year of first cART, Hepatitis C co-infection, cART regimen, and prior blips. Prior blips were not a significant predictor of VF in univariate analysis (AHR 0.97, p = 0.82). Differing magnitudes of blips were not significant in univariate analyses as predictors of virological failure (p = 0.360 for blip 50–≤1000, p = 0.309 for blip 50–≤400 and p = 0.300 for blip 50–≤200). 209 of 866 (24%) patients were switched to an alternate regimen in the setting of a blip. Conclusion Despite a lower proportion of blips occurring in low/middle-income settings, no significant difference was found between settings. Nonetheless, a substantial number of participants were switched to alternative regimens in the setting of blips.
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