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1.  Combination HIV Prevention among MSM in South Africa: Results from Agent-based Modeling 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112668.
HIV prevention trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of a number of behavioral and biomedical interventions. HIV prevention packages are combinations of interventions and offer potential to significantly increase the effectiveness of any single intervention. Estimates of the effectiveness of prevention packages are important for guiding the development of prevention strategies and for characterizing effect sizes before embarking on large scale trials. Unfortunately, most research to date has focused on testing single interventions rather than HIV prevention packages. Here we report the results from agent-based modeling of the effectiveness of HIV prevention packages for men who have sex with men (MSM) in South Africa. We consider packages consisting of four components: antiretroviral therapy for HIV infected persons with CD4 count <350; PrEP for high risk uninfected persons; behavioral interventions to reduce rates of unprotected anal intercourse (UAI); and campaigns to increase HIV testing. We considered 163 HIV prevention packages corresponding to different intensity levels of the four components. We performed 2252 simulation runs of our agent-based model to evaluate those packages. We found that a four component package consisting of a 15% reduction in the rate of UAI, 50% PrEP coverage of high risk uninfected persons, 50% reduction in persons who never test for HIV, and 50% ART coverage over and above persons already receiving ART at baseline, could prevent 33.9% of infections over 5 years (95% confidence interval, 31.5, 36.3). The package components with the largest incremental prevention effects were UAI reduction and PrEP coverage. The impact of increased HIV testing was magnified in the presence of PrEP. We find that HIV prevention packages that include both behavioral and biomedical components can in combination prevent significant numbers of infections with levels of coverage, acceptance and adherence that are potentially achievable among MSM in South Africa.
PMCID: PMC4232469  PMID: 25398143
2.  Sibanye Methods for Prevention Packages Program Project Protocol: Pilot Study of HIV Prevention Interventions for Men Who Have Sex With Men in South Africa 
JMIR Research Protocols  2014;3(4):e55.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention intervention programs and related research for men who have sex with men (MSM) in the southern African region remain limited, despite the emergence of a severe epidemic among this group. With a lack of understanding of their social and sexual lives and HIV risks, and with MSM being a hidden and stigmatized group in the region, optimized HIV prevention packages for southern African MSM are an urgent public health and research priority.
The objective of the Sibanye Health Project is to develop and evaluate a combination package of biomedical, behavioral, and community-level HIV prevention interventions and services for MSM in South Africa.
The project consists of three phases: (1) a comprehensive literature review and summary of current HIV prevention interventions (Phase I), (2) agent-based mathematical modeling of HIV transmission in southern African MSM (Phase II), and (3) formative and stigma-related qualitative research, community engagement, training on providing health care to MSM, and the pilot study (Phase III). The pilot study is a prospective one-year study of 200 men in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The study will assess a package of HIV prevention services, including condom and condom-compatible lubricant choices, risk-reduction counseling, couples HIV testing and counseling, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for eligible men, and non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis for men with a high risk exposure. The pilot study will begin in October 2014.
Preliminary results from all components but the pilot study are available. We developed a literature review database with meta-data extracted from 3800 documents from 67 countries. Modeling results indicate that regular HIV testing and promotion of condom use can significantly impact new HIV infections among South African MSM, even in the context of high coverage of early treatment of HIV-positive men and high coverage of PrEP for at-risk HIV-negative men. Formative qualitative research consisted of 79 in-depth interviews, and six focus group discussions in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Analysis of these data has informed pilot study protocol development and has been documented in peer-reviewed manuscripts. Qualitative work regarding stigma faced by South African MSM resulted in finalized scales for use in the pilot study questionnaire. A total of 37 health care providers completed training designed to facilitate clinically and culturally competent care for MSM in the Eastern Cape.
The design of a future, larger study of the HIV prevention package will be conducted at the end of the pilot study, powered to detect efficacy of the prevention package. Data from the updated mathematical model, results of the pilot study, acceptability data, and advancements in HIV prevention sciences will be considered in developing the final proposed package and study design.
Trial Registration NCT02043015; (Archived by WebCite at
PMCID: PMC4210958  PMID: 25325296
HIV; prevention & control; South Africa; Truvada
3.  Male Sex Workers in Moscow, Russia: A Pilot Study of Demographics, Substance Use Patterns, and Prevalence of HIV-1 and Sexually Transmitted Infections 
AIDS care  2010;22(1):112-118.
To explore demographic characteristics, substance use patters, and estimate the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and high-risk behaviors among male sex workers (MSW) in Moscow and to assess the feasibility of prospective cohort recruitment and retention among this population.
Longitudinal study of 50 men with 6 month follow up period. Participants were recruited through venue based and snowball sampling.
HIV prevalence at baseline was 16% and 1 male seroconverted during the follow up period. 24 % were diagnosed with at least one STI: 12% had syphilis; 8% had HPV;, and 4% had HSV-2. Three (6%) of the study participants had evidence of previous HCV exposure at baseline.
This was the first study to evaluate baseline demographics, substance use patterns, and prevalence of infectious disease among MSW in Moscow. Identification, and recruitment of this population appears to be feasible, but retention rates were poor with higher retention significantly associated with older men. While the sample size in the current study was small, the results also suggested that this is a population at considerable high risk for HIV. Male sex workers in Moscow may be an important at risk population in the Russian HIV epidemic and further research is urgently required to address their needs and explore prevention strategies.
PMCID: PMC4169695  PMID: 20390488
Male sex worker; Moscow; Russia; MSM; HIV; STI
4.  In memoriam: Joep Lange MD, PhD 
PMCID: PMC4159947  PMID: 25204873
5.  Behavioral and Biomedical Combination Strategies for HIV Prevention 
Around 2.5 million people become infected with HIV each year. This extraordinary toll on human life and public health worldwide will only be reversed with effective prevention. What’s more, in the next few years, it is likely at least, that no single prevention strategy will be sufficient to contain the spread of the disease. There is a need for combination prevention as there is for combination treatment, including biomedical, behavioral, and structural interventions. Expanded HIV prevention must be grounded in a systematic analysis of the epidemic’s dynamics in local contexts. Although 85% of HIV is transmitted sexually, effective combinations of prevention have been shown for people who inject drugs. Combination prevention should be based on scientifically derived evidence, with input and engagement from local communities that fosters the successful integration of care and treatment.
Each year, 2.5 million people are infected with HIV. Although multiple prevention strategies exist, they must be effective, affordable, and population-specific.
PMCID: PMC3405825  PMID: 22908192
6.  Maximizing the benefits of antiretroviral therapy for key affected populations 
Scientific research has demonstrated the clinical benefits of earlier initiation of antiretroviral treatment (ART), and that ART can markedly reduce HIV transmission to sexual partners. Ensuring universal access to ART for those who need it has long been a core principle of the HIV response, and extending the benefits of ART to key populations is critical to increasing the impact of ART and the overall effectiveness of the HIV response. However, this can only be achieved through coordinated efforts to address political, social, legal and economic barriers that key populations face in accessing HIV services.
Recent analyses show that HIV prevalence levels among key populations are far higher than among the general population, and they experience a range of biological and behavioural factors, and social, legal and economic barriers that increase their vulnerability to HIV and have resulted in alarmingly low ART coverage. World Health Organization 2014 consolidated guidance on HIV among key populations offers the potential for increased access to ART by key populations, following the same principles as for the general adult population. However, it should not be assumed that key populations will achieve greater access to ART unless stigma, discrimination and punitive laws, policies and practices that limit access to ART and other HIV interventions in many countries are addressed.
Rights-based approaches and investments in critical enablers, such as supportive legal and policy environments, are essential to enable wider access to ART and other HIV interventions for key populations. The primary objective of ART should always be to treat the person living with HIV; prevention is an important, additional benefit. ART should be provided only with informed consent. The preventive benefits of treatment must not be used as a pretext for failure to provide other necessary HIV programming for key populations, including comprehensive harm reduction and other prevention interventions tailored to meet the needs of key populations. An end to AIDS is only possible if we overcome the barriers of criminalization, stigma and discrimination that remain key drivers of the HIV epidemics among key populations.
PMCID: PMC4104298  PMID: 25043380
treatment; HIV/AIDS; human rights
7.  Overcoming Biological, Behavioral and Structural Vulnerabilities: New Directions in Research to Decrease HIV Transmission in Men who have Sex with Men 
Men who have sex with men, including transgender women, comprise a heterogeneous group of individuals, whose sexual behaviors and gender identities may varying widely between cultures and among individuals. Their sources of increased vulnerability to HIV are diverse, including the increased efficiency of HIV transmission via unprotected anal intercourse, sexual role versatility, asymptomatic sexually transmitted infections, as well as behavioral factors that may be associated with condomless sex with multiple partners. Societal stigmatization of homosexual behavior and gender non-conformity may result in internalized negative feelings that lead to depression, other affective disorders, and substance use, which in turn are associated with increased risk taking behaviors. Social stigma and punitive civil environments may lead to delays in seeking HIV and STD screening, and later initiation of antiretroviral therapy. The iPrEX study demonstrated that chemoprophylaxis can decrease HIV acquisition in MSM, and the HPTN 052 study established the biological plausibility that earlier initiation of HAART can decrease HIV transmission to uninfected partners. Despite these advances, MSM remain among the most significantly HIV-affected population in resource rich and limited settings. New studies will integrate enhanced understanding of the biology of enhanced rectal transmission of HIV and the focused use of antiretrovirals for prevention with culturally-tailored approaches that address the potentiating social and behavioral factors associated with enhanced HIV spread among MSM.
PMCID: PMC3740716  PMID: 23764630
Men who have sex with men; Transgender Women; HIV Prevention; HIV Transmission
8.  Pushback: The Current Wave of Anti-Homosexuality Laws and Impacts on Health 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001658.
Chris Beyrer discusses the worrying global trend towards the increasing criminalization of homosexuality.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
PMCID: PMC4068984  PMID: 24959671
9.  A qualitative assessment of health seeking practices among and provision practices for men who have sex with men in Malawi 
In the context of a generalized epidemic and criminalization of homosexuality, men who have sex with men (MSM) in Malawi have a disproportionate burden of HIV compared to other adults. Past research has documented low uptake of HIV prevention and health services among MSM, self-reported fear of seeking health services, and concerns of disclosure of sexual orientation and discrimination in health settings. Qualitative research was conducted among MSM and health service providers in Blantyre, Malawi to understand underlying factors related to disclosure and health seeking behaviors and inform the development of a community-based comprehensive HIV prevention intervention.
Using peer recruitment, eight MSM participants representing a range of ages, orientations, and social and behavioral characteristics were enrolled for in-depth interviews. Five service providers were recruited from the district hospital, local health and STI clinics, and a HIV prevention service organization. We use the Health Belief Model as a framework to interpret the influential factors on 1) health seeking and uptake among MSM, and 2) influences on provision of services by healthcare providers for MSM.
Results highlight disclosure fears among MSM and, among providers, a lack of awareness and self-efficacy to provide care in the face of limited information and political support. Service providers reported concerns of adverse repercussions related to the provision of services to men in same sex sexual relationships. Some MSM demonstrated awareness of HIV risk but believed that within the wider MSM community, there was a general lack of HIV information for MSM, low awareness of appropriate prevention, and low perception of risks related to HIV infection.
Qualitative research highlights the need for appropriate information on both HIV risks and acceptable, effective HIV prevention options for MSM. Information and educational opportunities should be available to the wider MSM community and the health sector. Health sector interventions may serve to increase cultural and clinical competency to address health problems experienced by MSM. To ensure availability and use of services in light of the criminalization and stigmatization of same sex practices, there is need to increase the safety of uptake and provision of these services for MSM.
PMCID: PMC4049421  PMID: 24893654
Health knowledge; Attitudes; Practice; HIV/AIDS; Men who have sex with men (MSM); Stigma; Malawi
10.  The global battle for sexual rights 
PMCID: PMC4024657  PMID: 24836776
11.  The Prevalence of Sexual Violence among Female Refugees in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis 
PLoS Currents  2014;6:ecurrents.dis.835f10778fd80ae031aac12d3b533ca7.
Importance: Refugees and internally displaced persons are highly vulnerable to sexual violence during conflict and subsequent displacement. However, accurate estimates of the prevalence of sexual violence among in these populations remain uncertain. Objective: Our objective was to estimate the prevalence of sexual violence among refugees and displaced persons in complex humanitarian emergencies. Data Source: We conducted systematic review of relevant literature in multiple databases (EMBASE, CINAHL, and MEDLINE) through February 2013 to identify studies. We also reviewed reference lists of included articles to identify any missing sources. Study Selection: Inclusion criteria required identification of sexual violence among refugees and internally displaced persons or those displaced by conflict in complex humanitarian settings. Studies were excluded if they did not provide female sexual violence prevalence, or that included only single case reports, anecdotes, and those that focused on displacement associated with natural disasters. After a review of 1175 citations 19 unique studies were selected. Data Extraction: Two reviewers worked independently to identify final selection and a third reviewer adjudicated any differences. Descriptive and quantitative information was extracted; prevalence estimates were synthesized. Heterogeneity was assessed using I2. Main Outcomes: The main outcome of interest was sexual violence among female refugees and internally displaced persons in complex humanitarian settings. Results: The prevalence of sexual violence was estimated at 21.4% (95% CI, 14.9-28.7; I2=98.3%), using a random effects model. Statistical heterogeneity was noted with studies using probability sampling designs reporting lower prevalence of sexual violence (21.0%, 95% CI, 13.2-30.1; I2=98.6%), compared to lower quality studies (21.7%, 95% CI, 11.5-34.2; I2=97.4%). We could not rule out the presence of publication bias. Conclusions: The findings suggest that approximately one in five refugees or displaced women in complex humanitarian settings experienced sexual violence. However, this is likely an underestimation of the true prevalence given the multiple existing barriers associated with disclosure. The long-term health and social consequences of sexual violence for women and their families necessitate strategies to improve identification of survivors of sexual violence and increase prevention and response interventions in these complex settings.
PMCID: PMC4012695  PMID: 24818066
12.  The Role of Viral Introductions in Sustaining Community-Based HIV Epidemics in Rural Uganda: Evidence from Spatial Clustering, Phylogenetics, and Egocentric Transmission Models 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001610.
Using different approaches to investigate HIV transmission patterns, Justin Lessler and colleagues find that extra-community HIV introductions are frequent and likely play a role in sustaining the epidemic in the Rakai community.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
It is often assumed that local sexual networks play a dominant role in HIV spread in sub-Saharan Africa. The aim of this study was to determine the extent to which continued HIV transmission in rural communities—home to two-thirds of the African population—is driven by intra-community sexual networks versus viral introductions from outside of communities.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed the spatial dynamics of HIV transmission in rural Rakai District, Uganda, using data from a cohort of 14,594 individuals within 46 communities. We applied spatial clustering statistics, viral phylogenetics, and probabilistic transmission models to quantify the relative contribution of viral introductions into communities versus community- and household-based transmission to HIV incidence. Individuals living in households with HIV-incident (n = 189) or HIV-prevalent (n = 1,597) persons were 3.2 (95% CI: 2.7–3.7) times more likely to be HIV infected themselves compared to the population in general, but spatial clustering outside of households was relatively weak and was confined to distances <500 m. Phylogenetic analyses of gag and env genes suggest that chains of transmission frequently cross community boundaries. A total of 95 phylogenetic clusters were identified, of which 44% (42/95) were two individuals sharing a household. Among the remaining clusters, 72% (38/53) crossed community boundaries. Using the locations of self-reported sexual partners, we estimate that 39% (95% CI: 34%–42%) of new viral transmissions occur within stable household partnerships, and that among those infected by extra-household sexual partners, 62% (95% CI: 55%–70%) are infected by sexual partners from outside their community. These results rely on the representativeness of the sample and the quality of self-reported partnership data and may not reflect HIV transmission patterns outside of Rakai.
Our findings suggest that HIV introductions into communities are common and account for a significant proportion of new HIV infections acquired outside of households in rural Uganda, though the extent to which this is true elsewhere in Africa remains unknown. Our results also suggest that HIV prevention efforts should be implemented at spatial scales broader than the community and should target key populations likely responsible for introductions into communities.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
About 35 million people (25 million of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and about 2.3 million people become newly infected every year. HIV destroys immune system cells, leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. HIV infection can be controlled by taking antiretroviral drugs (antiretroviral therapy, or ART) daily throughout life. Although originally available only to people living in wealthy countries, recent political efforts mean that 9.7 million people in low- and middle-income countries now have access to ART. However, ART does not cure HIV infection, so prevention of viral transmission remains extremely important. Because HIV is usually transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of infection by abstaining from sex, by having one or a few partners, and by using condoms. Male circumcision also reduces HIV transmission. In addition to reducing illness and death among HIV-positive people, ART also reduces HIV transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
Effective HIV control requires an understanding of how HIV spreads through sexual networks. These networks include sexual partnerships between individuals in households, between community members in different households, and between individuals from different communities. Local sexual networks (household and intra-community sexual partnerships) are sometimes assumed to be the dominant driving force in HIV spread in sub-Saharan Africa, but are viral introductions from sexual partnerships with individuals outside the community also important? This question needs answering because the effectiveness of interventions such as ART as prevention partly depends on how many new infections in an intervention area are attributable to infection from partners residing in that area and how many are attributable to infection from partners living elsewhere. Here, the researchers use three analytical methods—spatial clustering statistics, viral phylogenetics, and egocentric transmission modeling—to ask whether HIV transmission in rural Uganda is driven predominantly by intra-community sexual networks. Spatial clustering analysis uses the geographical coordinates of households to measure the tendency of HIV-infected people to cluster spatially at scales consistent with community transmission. Viral phylogenetic analysis examines the genetic relatedness of viruses; if transmission is through local networks, viruses in newly infected individuals should more closely resemble viruses in other community members than those in people outside the community. Egocentric transmission modelling uses information on the locations of recent sexual partners to estimate the proportions of new transmissions from household, intra-community, and extra-community partners.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers applied their three analytical methods to data collected from 14,594 individuals living in 46 communities (governmental administrative units) in Rakai District, Uganda. Spatial clustering analysis indicated that individuals who lived in households with individuals with incident HIV (newly diagnosed) or prevalent HIV (previously diagnosed) were 3.2 times more likely than the general population to be HIV-positive themselves. Spatial clustering outside households was relatively weak, however, and was confined to distances of less than half a kilometer. Viral phylogenetic analysis indicated that 44% of phylogenetic clusters (viruses with related genetic sequences found in more than one individual) were within households, but that 40% of clusters crossed community borders. Finally, analysis of the locations of self-reported sexual partners indicated that 39% of new viral transmissions occurred within stable household partnerships, but that among people newly infected by extra-household partners, nearly two-thirds were infected by partners from outside their community.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of all three analyses suggest that HIV introductions into communities are frequent and are likely to play an important role in sustaining HIV transmission in the Rakai District. Specifically, within this rural HIV-endemic region (a region where HIV infection is always present), viral introductions combined with intra-household transmission account for the majority of new infections, although community-based sexual networks also play a critical role in HIV transmission. These findings may not be generalizable to the broader Ugandan population or to other regions of Africa, and their accuracy is likely to be limited by the use of self-reported sexual partner data. Nevertheless, these findings indicate that the dynamics of HIV transmission in rural Uganda (and probably elsewhere) are complex. Consequently, to halt the spread of HIV, prevention efforts will need to be implemented at spatial scales broader than individual communities, and key populations that are likely to introduce HIV into communities will need to be targeted.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in Uganda and on HIV prevention strategies (in English and Spanish)
The UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2013 provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it
The Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (University of California, San Francisco) has a fact sheet about sexual networks and HIV prevention
Wikipedia provides information on spatial clustering analysis (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
A PLOS Computational Biology Topic Page (a review article that is a published copy of record of a dynamic version of the article as found in Wikipedia) about viral phylodynamics is available
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert, NAM/aidsmap, and Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3942316  PMID: 24595023
13.  Epidemic Impacts of a Community Empowerment Intervention for HIV Prevention among Female Sex Workers in Generalized and Concentrated Epidemics 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88047.
Sex workers have endured a high burden of HIV infection in and across HIV epidemics. A comprehensive, community empowerment-based HIV prevention intervention emphasizes sex worker organization and mobilization to address HIV risk and often includes community-led peer education, condom distribution, and other activities. Meta-analysis of such interventions suggests a potential 51% reduction in inconsistent condom use. Mathematical modeling exercises provide theoretical insight into potential impacts of the intervention on HIV incidence and burden in settings where interventions have not yet been implemented.
We used a deterministic model, Goals, to project the impact on HIV infections when the community empowerment interventions were scaled up among female sex workers in Kenya, Thailand, Brazil, and Ukraine. Modeling scenarios included expansion of the comprehensive community empowerment-based HIV prevention intervention from baseline coverage over a 5-year period (5–65% in Kenya and Ukraine; 10–70% in Thailand and Brazil), while other interventions were held at baseline levels. A second exercise increased the intervention coverage simultaneously with equitable access to ART for sex workers. Impacts on HIV outcomes among sex workers and adults are observed from 2012–2016 and, compared to status quo when all interventions are held constant.
Optimistic but feasible coverage (65%–70%) of the intervention demonstrated a range of impacts on HIV: 220 infections averted over 5 yrs. among sex workers in Thailand, 1,830 in Brazil, 2,220 in Ukraine, and 10,800 infections in Kenya. Impacts of the intervention for female sex workers extend to the adult population, cumulatively averting 730 infections in Thailand to 20,700 adult infections in Kenya. Impacts vary by country, influenced by HIV prevalence in risk groups, risk behaviors, intervention use, and population size.
A community empowerment approach to HIV prevention and access to universal ART for female sex workers is a promising human rights-based solution to overcoming the persistent burden of HIV among female sex workers across epidemic settings.
PMCID: PMC3916392  PMID: 24516580
14.  Induced abortion, contraceptive use, and dual protection among female sex workers in Moscow, Russia 
To describe abortion history and current contraceptive use among female sex workers (FSWs) in Moscow, Russia.
A clinic-based survey was conducted among 147 FSWs in Moscow during an 8-month period in 2005.
In total, 83 of 143 (58.0%) FSWs reported a history of abortion, with 45 of 143 (31.5%) indicating multiple abortions. Condoms were the primary form of contraception (145/146 [99.3%]); just 17 of 142 (12.0%) FSWs reported using non-barrier modern contraception. All women who reported using a non-barrier modern method also indicated condom use (i.e. dual protection). Non-barrier contraceptive use was associated with inconsistent condom use (odds ratio [OR] 3.10; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.07–9.02) and multiple abortions (OR 4.71; 95% CI, 1.19–18.62).
The results illustrate substantial risk for unintended pregnancy among FSWs. Further research is needed regarding the dynamics of non-barrier contraception and condom use. Efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of FSWs should include access to safe and effective contraception, in addition to HIV prevention.
PMCID: PMC3529991  PMID: 23083495
Abortion; Condom use; Contraception; Dual protection; Female sex workers
15.  HIV now: why human rights matter more than ever 
PMCID: PMC3860328  PMID: 24331755
16.  HIV among men who have sex with men in Malawi: elucidating HIV prevalence and correlates of infection to inform HIV prevention 
Journal of the International AIDS Society  2013;16(4Suppl 3):18742.
There are limited data characterizing the burden of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Malawi. Epidemiologic research and access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services have been traditionally limited in Malawi by criminalization and stigmatization of same-sex practices. To inform the development of a comprehensive HIV prevention intervention for Malawian MSM, we conducted a community-led assessment of HIV prevalence and correlates of infection.
From April 2011 to March 2012, 338 MSM were enrolled in a cross-sectional study in Blantyre, Malawi. Participants were recruited by respondent-driven sampling methods (RDS), reaching 19 waves. Trained staff administered the socio-behavioural survey and HIV and syphilis voluntary counselling and testing.
Crude HIV and syphilis prevalence estimates were 15.4% (RDS-weighted 12.5%, 95% confidence interval (CI): 7.3–17.8) and 5.3% (RDS-weighted 4.4%, 95% CI: 3.1–7.6), respectively. Ninety per cent (90.4%, unweighted) of HIV infections were reported as being previously undiagnosed. Participants were predominantly gay-identified (60.8%) or bisexually identified (36.3%); 50.7% reported recent concurrent relationships. Approximately half reported consistent condom use (always or almost always) with casual male partners, and proportions were relatively uniform across partner types and genders. The prevalence of perceived and experienced stigma exceeded 20% for almost all variables, 11.4% ever experienced physical violence and 7% were ever raped. Current age >25 years (RDS-weighted adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 3.9, 95% CI: 1.2–12.7), single marital status (RDS-weighted AOR: 0.3; 95% CI: 0.1–0.8) and age of first sex with a man <16 years (RDS-weighted AOR: 4.3, 95% CI: 1.2–15.0) were independently associated with HIV infection.
Results demonstrate that MSM represent an underserved, at-risk population for HIV services in Malawi and merit comprehensive HIV prevention services. Results provide a number of priorities for research and prevention programmes for MSM, including providing access to and encouraging regular confidential HIV testing and counselling, and risk reduction counselling related to anal intercourse. Other targets include the provision of condoms and compatible lubricants, HIV prevention information, and HIV and sexually transmitted infection treatment and adherence support. Addressing multiple levels of HIV risk, including structural factors, may help to ensure that programmes have sufficient coverage to impact this HIV epidemic among MSM.
PMCID: PMC3852128  PMID: 24321110
HIV; men who have sex with men (MSM); behavioural risks; stigma; Malawi; prevention
17.  A pilot cohort study to assess the feasibility of HIV prevention science research among men who have sex with men in Dakar, Senegal 
Journal of the International AIDS Society  2013;16(4Suppl 3):18753.
Men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately burdened by HIV in Senegal, across sub-Saharan Africa and throughout the world. This is driven in part by stigma, and limits health achievements and social capital among these populations. To date, there is a limited understanding of the feasibility of prospective HIV prevention studies among MSM in Senegal, including HIV incidence and cohort retention rates.
One hundred and nineteen men who reported having anal sex with another man in the past 12 months were randomly selected from a sampling frame of 450 unique members of community groups serving MSM in Dakar. These men were enrolled in a 15-month pilot cohort study implemented by a community-based partner. The study included a structured survey instrument and biological testing for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B virus at two time points.
Baseline HIV prevalence was 36.0% (43/114), with cumulative HIV prevalence at study end being 47.2% (51/108). The annualized incidence rate was 16% (8/40 at risk for seroconversion over 15 months of follow-up, 95% confidence interval 4.6–27.4%). Thirty-seven men were lost to follow up, including at least four deaths. Men who were able to confide in someone about health, emotional distress and sex were less likely to be HIV positive (OR 0.36, p < 0.05, 95% CI 0.13, 0.97).
High HIV prevalence and incidence, as well as mortality in this young population of Senegalese MSM indicate a public health emergency. Moreover, given the high burden of HIV and rate of incident HIV infections, this population appears to be appropriate for the evaluation of novel HIV prevention, treatment and care approaches. Using a study implemented by community-based organizations, there appears to be feasibility in implementing interventions addressing the multiple levels of HIV risk among MSM in this setting. However, low retention across arms of this pilot intervention, and in the cohort, will need to be addressed for larger-scale efficacy trials to be feasible.
PMCID: PMC3852354  PMID: 24321115
HIV; socio-economic status; men who have sex with men; Africa; prevention
18.  The HIV epidemic and human rights violations in Brazil 
PMCID: PMC3827457  PMID: 24225350
19.  The potential uses of preexposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention among people who inject drugs 
Current opinion in HIV and AIDS  2012;7(6):10.1097/COH.0b013e328358e49e.
Purpose of review
Oral preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has shown HIV preventive efficacy for several key populations at risk for HIV infection including MSM and heterosexual men and women in HIV serodiscordant relationships. An efficacy trial of daily oral tenofovir among people who inject drugs (IDU) is underway in Thailand.
Recent findings
Although efficacy data is pending, there is emerging biological and public health plausibility data suggesting the utility of PrEP as an effective component of combination HIV prevention for IDU. Drawing from studies characterizing adherence to antiretroviral therapy for IDU, there are a range of scientific and operational considerations for the potential use of PrEP for IDU. We review here the available literature on the potential use of PrEP for IDU, barriers to uptake and adherence, and potential implementation science questions, which could address, and potently increase, the effectiveness of this intervention.
IDU remain the most underserved population in the HIV response worldwide, and have a marked gap in prevention services, making PrEP a potentially promising addition to the prevention toolkit for people who use drugs and, for those already living with HIV infection, for their spouses and other sexual partners.
PMCID: PMC3819201  PMID: 23076122
HIV; injecting drug user; preexposure prophylaxis; prevention
20.  The Highest Attainable Standard of Evidence (HASTE) for HIV/AIDS Interventions: Toward a Public Health Approach to Defining Evidence 
Public Health Reports  2012;127(6):572-584.
Evidence-driven decisions have become a standard for health interventions, policy, and programs. While randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are encouraged for public health interventions, there are limitations with RCTs as the gold standard of evidence for HIV interventions. We developed a novel system of evaluating evidence for assessing HIV preventive interventions termed the Highest Attainable Standard of Evidence (HASTE).
The HASTE system focuses on triangulation of three distinct categories of evidence: efficacy data, implementation data, and plausibility. We conducted systematic reviews, including experimental and observational data, to assess all available interventions for men who have sex with men (MSM). We collected implementation and programmatic data using a global electronic consultation, Internet searches, and in-person consultations. We assessed plausibility with expert analyses of both biological and public health evidence.
HASTE includes four grades of evidence: Strong (Grade 1), Conditional (Grade 2), Insufficient (Grade 3), and Inappropriate (Grade 4). We used the HASTE system to evaluate the evidence for HIV interventions for MSM in low- and middle-income countries. Several differences emerged in the strength of recommendation with the use of the HASTE system, including strong recommendations for voluntary counseling and testing and for structural interventions.
The HASTE system addresses a need for an evidence evaluation tool that is specific for HIV interventions and facilitates an evaluation of biomedical, behavioral, and structural approaches using the highest standard of attainable evidence. HASTE represents a tool that balances scientific integrity and practicality in assessing the quality of evidence of preventive interventions targeting the most-at-risk populations for HIV.
PMCID: PMC3461350  PMID: 23115382
21.  Global epidemiology of HIV infection in men who have sex with men 
Lancet  2012;380(9839):367-377.
Epidemics of HIV in men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to expand in most countries. We sought to understand the epidemiological drivers of the global epidemic in MSM and why it continues unabated. We did a comprehensive review of available data for HIV prevalence, incidence, risk factors, and the molecular epidemiology of HIV in MSM from 2007 to 2011, and modelled the dynamics of HIV transmission with an agent-based simulation. Our findings show that the high probability of transmission per act through receptive anal intercourse has a central role in explaining the disproportionate disease burden in MSM. HIV can be transmitted through large MSM networks at great speed. Molecular epidemiological data show substantial clustering of HIV infections in MSM networks, and higher rates of dual-variant and multiple-variant HIV infection in MSM than in heterosexual people in the same populations. Prevention strategies that lower biological transmission and acquisition risks, such as approaches based on antiretrovirals, offer promise for controlling the expanding epidemic in MSM, but their potential effectiveness is limited by structural factors that contribute to low health-seeking behaviours in populations of MSM in many parts of the world.
PMCID: PMC3805037  PMID: 22819660
22.  From personal survival to public health: community leadership by men who have sex with men in the response to HIV 
Lancet  2012;380(9839):400-410.
Community leadership and participation by gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM) have been central to the response to HIV since the beginning of the epidemic. Through a wide array of actions, engagement of MSM has been important in the protection of communities. The connection between personal and community health as drivers of health advocacy continue to be a powerful element. The passion and urgency brought by MSM communities have led to the targeting and expansion of HIV and AIDS research and programming, and have improved the synergy of health and human rights, sustainability, accountability, and health outcomes for all people affected by HIV. MSM are, however, frequently excluded from the evidence-based services that they helped to develop, despite them generally being the most effective actors in challenging environments. Without MSM community involvement, government-run health programmes might have little chance of effectively reaching communities or scaling up interventions to lessen, and ultimately end, the HIV pandemic.
PMCID: PMC3805044  PMID: 22819662
23.  A call to action for comprehensive HIV services for men who have sex with men 
Lancet  2012;380(9839):424-438.
Where surveillance has been done, it has shown that men (MSM) who have sex with men bear a disproportionate burden of HIV. Yet they continue to be excluded, sometimes systematically, from HIV services because of stigma, discrimination, and criminalisation. This situation must change if global control of the HIV epidemic is to be achieved. On both public health and human rights grounds, expansion of HIV prevention, treatment, and care to MSM is an urgent imperative. Effective combination prevention and treatment approaches are feasible, and culturally competent care can be developed, even in rights-challenged environments. Condom and lubricant access for MSM globally is highly cost effective. Antiretroviral-based prevention, and antiretroviral access for MSM globally, would also be cost effective, but would probably require substantial reductions in drug costs in high-income countries to be feasible. To address HIV in MSM will take continued research, political will, structural reform, community engagement, and strategic planning and programming, but it can and must be done.
PMCID: PMC3805059  PMID: 22819663
24.  Acceptability of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis among Men Who Have Sex with Men and Transgender Women in Northern Thailand 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76650.
Northern Thailand has a high burden HIV epidemic among MSM and TG. Oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with tenofovir-emtricitabine has demonstrated efficacy in preventing HIV among MSM and TG in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Determinants of PrEP acceptability are needed to gauge the potential uptake of this prevention strategy.
From January to February 2012, 238 MSM and TG participants, who self-reported as HIV-uninfected or of unknown status, completed a self-administered survey on hand-held computers. Participants were recruited by venue-day-time sampling and asked to rate their likelihood of using oral PrEP for HIV prevention with an efficacy of 50%. PrEP acceptability was defined as being “very likely” to use PrEP. Odds ratios and 95% CIs were calculated to identify correlates of acceptability.
131 MSM and 107 TG responded, with mean ages of 23.7 and 21.8, respectively. 24% of MSM engaged primarily in receptive anal sex vs. 74% of TG. 21% of MSM and 44% of TG reported regular medication use. Prior awareness of PrEP was high at 66% among both MSM and TG respondents. 41% of MSM and 37% of TG were "very likely" to use PrEP. Among MSM, factors associated with PrEP acceptability included a prior history of STIs (AOR 4.6; 95%CIs 1.7-12.6), previous HIV testing (AOR 2.4 95%CIs 1.1-5.3), regularly planned sex (AOR 2.8 95%CIs 1.1-7.2), and infrequent sex (AOR 2.9 95%CIs 1.3-6.3). Among TG, factors associated with acceptability included prior awareness of PrEP (AOR 3.3; 95%CIs 1.2-9.0) and having private insurance (AOR 5.0; 95%CIs 1.3-19.0).
MSM and TG in Northern Thailand are distinct groups in terms of sexual behaviors, patterns of medication use, and correlates of PrEP acceptability. Efforts to maximize PrEP uptake should include expanded HIV testing services and the provision of financial subsidies to reduce the cost of PrEP.
PMCID: PMC3792988  PMID: 24116132
25.  The Feasibility of HIV Vaccine Efficacy Trials among Russian Injection Drug Users 
Vaccine  2007;25(41):7014-7016.
IDU exposure remains a primary driver of the Russian HIV epidemic, and recent incidence data provide little evidence that this epidemic is slowing. While there are multiple important challenges that need to be further explored before starting vaccine trials, most importantly access to evidence-based drug treatment services for trial participants, the current context of high HIV incidence and low genetic diversity of HIV strains, suggests the need for intensified prevention strategies and supports the feasibility of mounting efficacy trials of HIV vaccines among IDUs in the Russian Federation.
PMCID: PMC3747029  PMID: 17707960
HIV; Injection Drug use; St. Petersburg; Molecular Epidemiology; Vaccines

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