The role of immune-genetic factors in modelling longitudinally measured HIV bio-markers including the handling of missing data.
Since the discovery of AIDS among the gay men in 1981 in the United States of America, it has become a major world pandemic with over 40 million individuals infected world wide. According to the Joint United Nations Programme against HIV/AIDS epidermic updates in 2012, 28.3 million individuals are living with HIV world wide, 23.5 million among them coming from sub-saharan Africa and 4.8 million individuals residing in Asia. The report showed that approximately 1.7 million individuals have died from AIDS related deaths, 34 million ± 50% know their HIV status, a total of 2:5 million individuals are newly infected, 14:8 million individuals are eligible for HIV treatment and only 8 million are on HIV treatment (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and health sector progress towards universal access: progress report, 2011). Numerous studies have been carried out to understand the pathogenesis and the dynamics of this deadly disease (AIDS) but, still its pathogenesis is poorly understood. More understanding of the disease is still needed so as to reduce the rate of its acquisition. Researchers have come up with statistical and mathematical models which help in understanding and predicting the progression of the disease better so as to find ways in which its acquisition can be prevented and controlled. Previous studies on HIV/AIDS have shown that, inter-individual variability plays an important role in susceptibility to HIV-1 infection, its transmission, progression and even response to antiviral therapy. Certain immuno-genetic factors (human leukocyte antigen (HLA), Interleukin-10 (IL-10) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)) have been associated with the variability among individuals. In this dissertation we are going to reaffirm previous studies through statistical modelling and analysis that have shown that, immuno-genetic factors could play a role in susceptibility, transmission, progression and even response to antiviral therapy. This will be done using the Sinikithemba study data from the HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP) at Nelson Mandela Medical school, University of Kwazulu-Natal consisting of 451 HIV positive and treatment naive individuals to model how the HIV Bio-markers (viral load and CD4 count) are associated with the immuno-genetic factors using linear mixed models. We finalize the dissertation by dealing with drop-out which is a pervasive problem in longitudinal studies, regardless of how well they are designed and executed. We demonstrate the application and performance of multiple imputation (MI) in handling drop-out using a longitudinal count data from the Sinikithemba study with log viral load as the response. Our aim is to investigate the influence of drop-out on the evolution of HIV Bio-markers in a model including selected genetic factors as covariates, assuming the missing mechanism is missing at random (MAR). We later compare the results obtained from the MI method to those obtained from the incomplete dataset. From the results, we can clearly see that there is much difference in the findings obtained from the two analysis. Therefore, there is need to account for drop-out since it can lead to biased results if not accounted for.