Background Few data on the virological determinants of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection are available from southern Africa. Methods We enrolled consecutive HIV-infected adult patients initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART) at two urban clinics in Zambia and four rural clinics in Northern Mozambique between May 2013 and August 2014. HBsAg screening was performed using the Determine1 rapid test. Quantitative real-time PCR and HBV sequencing were performed in HBsAg-positive patients. Risk factors for HBV infection were evaluated using Chi-square and Mann-Whitney tests and associations between baseline characteristics and high level HBV replication explored in multivariable logistic regression. Results Seventy-eight of 1,032 participants in Mozambique (7.6%, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 6.1–9.3) and 90 of 797 in Zambia (11.3%, 95% CI: 9.3–13.4) were HBsAg-positive. HBsAg-positive individuals were less likely to be female compared to HBsAg-negative ones (52.3% vs. 66.1%, p<0.001). Among 156 (92.9%) HBsAg-positive patients with an available measurement, median HBV viral load was 13,645 IU/mL (interquartile range: 192–8,617,488 IU/mL) and 77 (49.4%) had high values (>20,000 UI/mL). HBsAg-positive individuals had higher levels of ALT and AST compared to HBsAg-negative ones (both p<0.001). In multivariable analyses, male sex (adjusted odds ratio: 2.59, 95% CI: 1.22–5.53) and CD4 cell count below 200/μl (2.58, 1.20–5.54) were associated with high HBV DNA. HBV genotypes A1 (58.8%) and E (38.2%) were most prevalent. Four patients had probable resistance to lamivudine and/or entecavir. Conclusion One half of HBsAg-positive patients demonstrated high HBV viremia, supporting the early initiation of tenofovir-containing ART in HIV/HBV-coinfected adults.
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