HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis and early antiretroviral treatment among female sex workers in South Africa: Results from a prospective observational demonstration project.

Eakle, R; Gomez, GB; Naicker, N; Bothma, R; Mbogua, J; Cabrera Escobar, MA; Saayman, E; Moorhouse, M; Venter, WDF; Rees, H; TAPS Demonstration Project Team, ; (2017) HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis and early antiretroviral treatment among female sex workers in South Africa: Results from a prospective observational demonstration project. PLoS medicine, 14 (11). e1002444. ISSN 1549-1277 DOI:

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Operational research is required to design delivery of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and early antiretroviral treatment (ART). This paper presents the primary analysis of programmatic data, as well as demographic, behavioural, and clinical data, from the TAPS Demonstration Project, which offered both interventions to female sex workers (FSWs) at 2 urban clinic sites in South Africa. The TAPS study was conducted between 30 March 2015 and 30 June 2017, with the enrolment period ending on 31 July 2016. TAPS was a prospective observational cohort study with 2 groups receiving interventions delivered in existing service settings: (1) PrEP as part of combination prevention for HIV-negative FSWs and (2) early ART for HIV-positive FSWs. The main outcome was programme retention at 12 months of follow-up. Of the 947 FSWs initially seen in clinic, 692 were HIV tested. HIV prevalence was 49%. Among those returning to clinic after HIV testing and clinical screening, 93% of the women who were HIV-negative were confirmed as clinically eligible for PrEP (n = 224/241), and 41% (n = 110/270) of the women who were HIV-positive had CD4 counts within National Department of Health ART initiation guidelines at assessment. Of the remaining women who were HIV-positive, 93% were eligible for early ART (n = 148/160). From those eligible, 98% (n = 219/224) and 94% (n = 139/148) took up PrEP and early ART, respectively. At baseline, a substantial fraction of women had a steady partner, worked in brothels, and were born in Zimbabwe. Of those enrolled, 22% on PrEP (n = 49/219) and 60% on early ART (n = 83/139) were seen at 12 months; we observed high rates of loss to follow-up: 71% (n = 156/219) and 30% (n = 42/139) in the PrEP and early ART groups, respectively. Little change over time was reported in consistent condom use or the number of sexual partners in the last 7 days, with high levels of consistent condom use with clients and low use with steady partners in both study groups. There were no seroconversions on PrEP and 7 virological failures on early ART among women remaining in the study. Reported adherence to PrEP varied over time between 70% and 85%, whereas over 90% of participants reported taking pills daily while on early ART. Data on provider-side costs were also collected and analysed. The total cost of service delivery was approximately US$126 for PrEP and US$406 for early ART per person-year. The main limitations of this study include the lack of a control group, which was not included due to ethical considerations; clinical study requirements imposed when PrEP was not approved through the regulatory system, which could have affected uptake; and the timing of the implementation of a national sex worker HIV programme, which could have also affected uptake and retention. PrEP and early ART services can be implemented within FSW routine services in high prevalence, urban settings. We observed good uptake for both PrEP and early ART; however, retention rates for PrEP were low. Retention rates for early ART were similar to retention rates for the current standard of care. While the cost of the interventions was higher than previously published, there is potential for cost reduction at scale. The TAPS Demonstration Project results provided the basis for the first government PrEP and early ART guidelines and the rollout of the national sex worker HIV programme in South Africa.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Global Health and Development
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PubMed ID: 29161256
Web of Science ID: 416834800027


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