Articles tagged as "Key populations"

Addressing alcohol use can improve structural factors in the lives of sex workers

The impact of an alcohol harm reduction intervention on interpersonal violence and engagement in sex work among female sex workers in Mombasa, Kenya: Results from a randomized controlled trial.

Parcesepe AM, KL LE, Martin SL, Green S, Sinkele W, Suchindran C, Speizer IS, Mwarogo P, Kingola N. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016 Apr 1;161:21-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.12.037. Epub 2016 Jan 22.

Aims: To evaluate whether an alcohol harm reduction intervention was associated with reduced interpersonal violence or engagement in sex work among female sex workers (FSWs) in Mombasa, Kenya.

Design: Randomized controlled trial.

Setting: HIV prevention drop-in centers in Mombasa, Kenya.

Participants: 818 women 18 or older in Mombasa who visited HIV prevention drop-in centers, were moderate-risk drinkers and engaged in transactional sex in past six months (410 and 408 in intervention and control arms, respectively).

Intervention: 6 session alcohol harm reduction intervention.

Comparator: 6 session non-alcohol related nutrition intervention.

Measurements: In-person interviews were conducted at enrollment, immediately post-intervention and 6-months post-intervention. General linear mixed models examined associations between intervention assignment and recent violence (physical violence, verbal abuse, and being robbed in the past 30 days) from paying and non-paying sex partners and engagement in sex work in the past 30 days.

Findings: The alcohol intervention was associated with statistically significant decreases in physical violence from paying partners at 6 months post-intervention and verbal abuse from paying partners immediately post-intervention and 6-months post-intervention. Those assigned to the alcohol intervention had significantly reduced odds of engaging in sex work immediately post-intervention and 6-months post-intervention.

Conclusions: The alcohol intervention was associated with reductions in some forms of violence and with reductions in engagement in sex work among FSWs in Mombasa, Kenya.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: Modifying structural drivers, such as alcohol, violence, or socio-economic status is a challenging but necessary component of developing sustainable, effective solutions to the HIV epidemic. This study presents findings from an individually randomised trial, where female sex workers were randomised to receive an individual-level programme focused on alcohol and substance use, and to assess non-alcohol associated outcomes of violence, and indirectly economic vulnerability. While the programme did not produce persistent effects at six months for all components, it very usefully demonstrated how addressing alcohol use, a structural factor central to sex workers’ lives, can potentially also improve non-alcohol associated outcomes. These included experiences of violence, economic status, and even ability to reduce time spent in sex work. Alcohol harm reduction programming should be integrated into HIV prevention programming with female sex workers, regardless of HIV status.

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HPV prevalent in a key population in India – potential for vaccination

Prevalence of anal HPV infection among HIV-positive men who have sex with men in India.

Hernandez AL, Karthik R, Sivasubramanian M, Raghavendran A, Gnanamony M, Lensing S, Lee JY, Kannangai R, Abraham P, Mathai D, Palefsky JM. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2016 Apr 1;71(4):437-43. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000855.

Background: India has a large population of HIV-positive individuals, including men who have sex with men (MSM), and the incidence of human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers is high. In developed countries, HIV-positive MSM exhibit the highest prevalence of anal HPV infection and incidence of anal cancer. Little is known about anal HPV infection in HIV-positive Indian MSM.

Methods: We evaluated 300 HIV-positive MSM from 2 cities in India. Men were tested for anal HPV infection using L1-HPV DNA polymerase chain reaction with probes specific for 29 types and a mixture of 10 additional types. CD4 level and plasma HIV viral load were measured. Participants completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire including a sexual history.

Results: The prevalence of anal HPV was 95% (95% confidence interval: 91% to 97%). The 3 most common types were HPV 35 (20%), HPV 16 (13%), and HPV 6/11 (13%). History of taking antiretroviral medications decreased risk of anal HPV 16 infection [relative risk (RR): 0.6 (0.4-1.0)]. Having an increased number of vaginal sex partners lowered risk of any anal HPV infection. Ever having receptive sex increased risk of any anal HPV [RR: 1.2 (1.1-1.4)] and anal HPV 16 [RR: 6.5 (1.8-107)].

Conclusions: Almost all Indian HIV-positive MSM had anal HPV infection. The prevalence of HPV 16 was lower and the prevalence of other oncogenic HPV types was higher than in similar populations in North America and Europe. Vaccine-based prevention strategies for HPV infection in India should consider potential differences in HPV type distribution among HIV-infected MSM when designing interventions.

Abstract access  

Editor’s notes: This is the first report of anal human papilloma virus (HPV) prevalence and associated risk factors among HIV-positive gay men and other men who have sex with men in India. The incidence of HPV-associated anogenital disease is high in Indian men and women. Given that Indian men who are HIV-positive have an increased risk of anal cancer compared to HIV negative men, data on HPV infection in this population is warranted.

The authors report a high prevalence of any HPV type (95%) and any oncogenic HPV type (49%), similar to reports among other HIV-positive gay men and other men who have sex with men in northern America and Europe. An important distinction within this cohort is that many of these men self-identify as bisexual. Just under half (47%) reported being married and two-thirds (62%) reported having at least one female sex partner in their lifetime. This finding has important implications for HPV transmission between gay men and other men who have sex with men and female partners, given the high HPV prevalence in this population. HPV vaccination of key populations has the potential to reduce this transmission.

HPV vaccination in HIV-negative men and women with evidence of prior infection has been shown to confer protection against infection from other HPV types. Men in this cohort had an average of 1.7 oncogenic HPV infections, and so a broader spectrum vaccine such as the 9-valent vaccine which targets seven of the oncogenic HPV types (16/18/31/33/45/52/58) could still protect against acquisition of other vaccine types. Notably, the most common oncogenic type detected was HPV35 which, although not targeted by any of the currently available vaccines, is implicated in cervical cancer. While HPV16 and 18 are the types most commonly found in anal cancer in the general population and in cervical cancer among HIV-positive and negative women, little is known about the association of HPV types with anal disease in people living with HIV. Additional studies are necessary to firstly determine the incidence of anal cancer among HIV-positive gay men and other men who have sex with men in India, and secondly to evaluate which HPV types are linked to anal disease in order to estimate the fraction of disease that could be prevented through vaccination. Further, HPV vaccination of gay men and other men who have sex with men in India could confer additional protection to their female partners through a reduction in transmission of oncogenic HPV types, resulting in a consequent reduction in cervical disease attributed to these HPV types.   

Comorbidity, Epidemiology
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Mobility, migration, and HIV: not always what you assume

The Silk Road health project: how mobility and migration status influence HIV risks among male migrant workers in central Asia. 

El-Bassel N, Gilbert L, Shaw SA, Mergenova G, Terlikbayeva A, Primbetova S, Ma X, Chang M, Ismayilova L, Hunt T, West B, Wu E, Beyrer C. PLoS One. 2016 Mar 11;11(3):e0151278. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151278. eCollection 2016.

Objectives: We examined whether mobility, migrant status, and risk environments are associated with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV risk behaviors (e.g. sex trading, multiple partners, and unprotected sex).

Methods: We used Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS) to recruit external male migrant market vendors from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan as well internal migrant and non-migrant market vendors from Kazakhstan. We conducted multivariate logistic regressions to examine the effects of mobility combined with the interaction between mobility and migration status on STIs and sexual risk behaviors, when controlling for risk environment characteristics.

Results: Mobility was associated with increased risk for biologically-confirmed STIs, sex trading, and unprotected sex among non-migrants, but not among internal or external migrants. Condom use rates were low among all three groups, particularly external migrants. Risk environment factors of low-income status, debt, homelessness, and limited access to medical care were associated with unprotected sex among external migrants.

Conclusion: Study findings underscore the role mobility and risk environments play in shaping HIV/STI risks. They highlight the need to consider mobility in the context of migration status and other risk environment factors in developing effective prevention strategies for this population.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: The 14 participants selected as seeds in this respondent driven sampling (RDS) strategy generated two large chains that made up 90% of the recruited study sample of 1324 male labour market workers at the Baraholka Market in Almaty, Kazakhstan. An estimated one million labour migrants enter Kazakhstan each year from neighbouring Central Asian countries that lack employment opportunities. However they face stigma, discrimination, police harassment, and lack of access to services. Finding out whether they are resilient to risk of exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or are more likely to acquire HIV/STIs is key to designing effective HIV prevention strategies in a country that saw HIV incidence rise 25% between 2001 and 2009. This study looked at associations between HIV and STI risk and mobility – defined as having travelled outside Almaty in the last 90 days. The study was among three groups at the market: external migrants, internal migrants, and non-migrants. The analysis adjusted for both sociodemographic and-structural risk environment factors (legal status, income, debt, policing, homelessness, loneliness, social support, access to medical care, and alcohol use). Overall, 5.2% were positive for any STI. These included 2.1% of external migrants, 7.5% of internal migrants, and 8.8% of non-migrants. The authors hypothesise that mobility was not associated with increased STIs and a range of risk behaviours in external and internal migrants because these men travel primarily to visit their families and because they are goal-oriented and focused on fulfilling their roles as major wage earners for their families. These findings are in contrast to those of other studies that suggest that migrants are at higher HIV risk and challenge perceptions of migrants as a source of disease transmission within host countries. They underscore the importance of prevention strategies in unique venues such as markets, including peer-led prevention messaging, mobile clinics, and confidential HIV/STI testing. However, to address the factors that put migrants at risk for HIV, the authors argue for labour agreements, a legal registration process, and other measures to sustain their rights, prevent violence against migrants, and reduce marginalisation. 

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An innovative method to evaluate community support for children: Using existing datasets

How effective is help on the doorstep? A longitudinal evaluation of community-based organisation support. 

Sherr L, Yakubovich AR, Skeen S, Cluver LD, Hensels IS, Macedo A, Tomlinson M. PLoS One. 2016 Mar 11;11(3):e0151305. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151305. eCollection 2016.

Community-based responses have a lengthy history. The ravages of HIV on family functioning has included a widespread community response. Although much funding has been invested in front line community-based organisations (CBO), there was no equal investment in evaluations. This study was set up to compare children aged 9-13 years old, randomly sampled from two South African provinces, who had not received CBO support over time (YC) with a group of similarly aged children who were CBO attenders (CCC). YC baseline refusal rate was 2.5% and retention rate was 97%. CCC baseline refusal rate was 0.7% and retention rate was 86.5%. 1848 children were included—446 CBO attenders compared to 1402 9-13 year olds drawn from a random sample of high-HIV prevalence areas. Data were gathered at baseline and 12-15 months follow-up. Standardised measures recorded demographics, violence and abuse, mental health, social and educational factors. Multivariate regression analyses revealed that children attending CBOs had lower odds of experiencing weekly domestic conflict between adults in their home (OR 0.17; 95% CI 0.09, 0.32), domestic violence (OR 0.22; 95% CI 0.08, 0.62), or abuse (OR 0.11; 95% CI 0.05, 0.25) at follow-up compared to participants without CBO contact. CBO attenders had lower odds of suicidal ideation (OR 0.41; 95% CI 0.18, 0.91), fewer depressive symptoms (B = -0.40; 95% CI -0.62, -0.17), less perceived stigma (B = -0.37; 95% CI -0.57, -0.18), fewer peer problems (B = -1.08; 95% CI -1.29, -0.86) and fewer conduct problems (B = -0.77; 95% CI -0.95, -0.60) at follow-up. In addition, CBO contact was associated with more prosocial behaviours at follow-up (B = 1.40; 95% CI 1.13, 1.67). No associations were observed between CBO contact and parental praise or post-traumatic symptoms. These results suggest that CBO exposure is associated with behavioural and mental health benefits for children over time. More severe psychopathology was not affected by attendance and may need more specialised input.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: This study is novel in both its research question and its methodology. The study aims to assess whether receipt of support from community-based organisations (CBOs) impacts the mental and social well-being of children in high HIV prevalence areas. The CBOs studied include many different organisations with diverse services, giving the study the benefit of assessing the overall impact of a combination of small, motivated groups. This helps lend credibility to CBOs and to convince policymakers and funders to support small-scale CBOs.

In terms of methodology, the study utilises two longitudinal datasets from southern Africa to explore the study aims. One survey is from a study of children affected by HIV served by CBOs, while the other is from a study of children affect by HIV without CBO support. There are some limitations to using two different studies, most especially unclear comparability and, in this case, lack of control data to adjust for possible differences, for example on socio-economic status or how HIV specifically affected the child. Despite these, this paper has striking results, and is an innovative effort to improve our understanding of the impact of CBOs on children’s well-being and should spur further creativity in impact evaluation methods.

South Africa
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Programme planning must take into account diversity of sex worker populations - Pakistan

Heterogeneity among sex workers in overlapping HIV risk interactions with people who inject drugs: a cross-sectional study from 8 major cities in Pakistan. 

Melesse DY, Shafer LA, Shaw SY, Thompson LH, Achakzai BK, Furqan S, Reza T, Emmanuel F, Blanchard JF. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Mar;95(12):e3085. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000003085.

Concerns remain regarding the heterogeneity in overlapping human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) risk behaviors among sex workers (SWs) in Pakistan; specifically, the degree to which SWs interact with people who inject drugs (PWID) through sex and/or needle sharing. Following an in-depth mapping performed in 2011 to determine the size and distribution of key populations at highest risk of HIV acquisition in Pakistan, a cross-sectional biological and behavioral survey was conducted among PWID, female (FSWs), male (MSWs), and hijra/transgender (HSWs) sex workers, and data from 8 major cities were used for analyses. Logistic regression was used to identify factors, including city of residence and mode of SW-client solicitation, contributing to the overlapping risks of drug injection and sexual interaction with PWID. The study comprised 8483 SWs (34.5% FSWs, 32.4% HSWs, and 33.1% MSWs). Among SWs who had sex with PWID, HSWs were 2.61 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.19-5.74) and 1.99 (95% CI, 0.94-4.22) times more likely to inject drugs than MSWs and FSWs, respectively. There was up to a 3-fold difference in drug injecting probability, dependent on where and/or how the SW solicited clients. Compared with SWs in Larkana, the highest likelihood of drug injection use was among SWs in Multan (OR = 4.52; 95% CI: 3.27-6.26), followed by those in Lahore, Quetta, and Faisalabad. Heterogeneity exists in the overlapping patterns of HIV risk behaviors of SWs. The risk of drug injection among SWs also varies by city. Some means of sexual client solicitation may be along the pathway to overlapping HIV risk vulnerability due to increased likelihood of drug injection among SWs. There is a need to closely monitor the mixing patterns between SWs and PWID and underlying structural factors, such as means of sexual client solicitation, that mediate HIV risk, and implement prevention programs customized to local sub-epidemics.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: This is an important paper reporting findings of an HIV prevalence and risk behaviour survey among sex workers and people who inject drugs. The paper describes the diversity of sex work, including male and transgender sex workers that are often neglected in research and service planning. It also examines injecting drug use among sex workers, a behaviour that can increase sex workers’ vulnerability to HIV, violence and other health harms. The finding that among sex workers who had a sex partner who also injected drugs, transgender sex workers had higher odds of injecting than male or female sex workers is important. This finding highlights the differences in vulnerability among the three sex worker populations, whose diversity is often not taken into account in programme planning. Other international evidence suggests increased stigma experienced by transgender sex workers on account of their gender. For example, with increased arrest and harassment administered by police and higher levels of poor emotional health. These are factors that might explain use of injecting drugs as a coping strategy. The study illustrates a clear need to target harm reduction services among this population, to ensure they have access to needle-syringe programmes.  Advice on safe injecting practices and how to manage injecting drug use alongside sex work are also necessary. Findings also clearly illustrate the need to understand better the underlying determinants of drug use and address those. Understanding why prevalence of drug use varies by city is vital. So too, is understanding how the way in which clients are engaged increases risk of injecting, in order to create enabling environments to minimise harms associated with injecting. 

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The effects of trauma follow people on the move

A systematic review of HIV risk behaviors and trauma among forced and unforced migrant populations from low and middle-income countries: state of the literature and future directions.

Michalopoulos LM, Aifah A, El-Bassel N. AIDS Behav. 2016 Feb;20(2):243-61. doi: 10.1007/s10461-015-1014-1.

The aim of the current systematic review is to examine the relationship between trauma and HIV risk behaviors among both forced and unforced migrant populations from low and middle income countries (LMIC). We conducted a review of studies published from 1995 to 2014. Data were extracted related to (1) the relationship between trauma and HIV risk behaviors, (2) methodological approach, (3) assessment methods, and (4) differences noted between forced and unforced migrants. A total of 340 records were retrieved with 24 studies meeting inclusion criteria. Our review demonstrated an overall relationship between trauma and HIV risk behaviors among migrant populations in LMIC, specifically with sexual violence and sexual risk behavior. However, findings from 10 studies were not in full support of the relationship. Findings from the review suggest that additional research using more rigorous methods is critically needed to understand the nature of the relationship experienced by this key-affected population.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: The number of forced and unforced migrants is growing globally. Refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons (IDP) are forced migrants who often migrate due to political violence or conflict. Labour migrants are seen as unforced migrants who choose to emigrate for economic reasons. About half of labour migrants worldwide are women who are increasingly migrating on their own being the sole income provider for their families. With respect to trauma exposure and HIV risk in settings of long-term political violence and conflict, the distinction between war migrant, non-war migrant, and long-term resident is blurred. This in-depth review of 24 studies related to low-and middle-income countries (LMIC), mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, found findings similar to those from non-migrant populations in high-income countries. These linked traumatic experiences among migrant populations with HIV risk behaviours. Sexual violence was consistently associated with HIV sexual risk behaviours and HIV infection across the studies. But there are big gaps in the scientific literature. For example, the relationship between trauma and HIV risks has been explored for female labour migrants who are sex workers but not among women who have other occupations. Most studies addressed sexual risk and alcohol dependence, but injecting drug risk behaviours and use of any illicit drugs were virtually ignored by most studies. Few studies examined a possible link for trauma that occurred pre-migration and post-migration. Three qualitative studies examined male migrants who have sex with men, finding that violent experiences and discrimination and stigma associated with homophobia, combined with other migrant-associated traumas, can compound their mental health outcomes and subsequent HIV risk behaviours – but all were only conducted in the last four years. No studies were found that focused on HIV prevention programmes to address trauma and HIV risks among migrant workers in LMIC. However, the studies do reveal important factors that prevention programmes would have to consider. For example, concerns among labour migrants about dangerous working conditions may take precedence over HIV risk perceptions and the need for safer sex. This systematic review presents a wealth of information while highlighting the need to improve the quality of scientific research examining the link between HIV and trauma among both forced and unforced migrants in LMIC. 

Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America
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Sex and drugs: cost-effectiveness of risk reduction programmes for female sex workers who inject drugs in Mexico

Cost-effectiveness of combined sexual and injection risk reduction interventions among female sex workers who inject drugs in two very distinct Mexican border cities.

Burgos JL, Patterson TL, Graff-Zivin JS, Kahn JG, Rangel MG, Lozada MR, Staines H, Strathdee SA. PLoS One. 2016 Feb 18;11(2):e0147719. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147719. eCollection 2016.

Background: We evaluated the cost-effectiveness of combined single session brief behavioral intervention, either didactic or interactive (Mujer Mas Segura, MMS) to promote safer-sex and safer-injection practices among female sex workers who inject drugs (FSW-IDUs) in Tijuana (TJ) and Ciudad-Juarez (CJ) Mexico. Data for this analysis was obtained from a factorial RCT in 2008-2010 coinciding with expansion of needle exchange programs (NEP) in TJ, but not in CJ.

Methods: A Markov model was developed to estimate the incremental cost per quality adjusted life year gained (QALY) over a lifetime time frame among a hypothetical cohort of 1000 FSW-IDUs comparing a less intensive didactic vs. a more intensive interactive format of the MMS, separately for safer sex and safer injection combined behavioral interventions. The cost for antiretroviral therapy was not included in the model. We applied a societal perspective, a discount rate of 3% per year and currency adjusted to US$2014. A multivariate sensitivity analysis was performed. The combined and individual components of the MMS interactive behavioral intervention were compared with the didactic formats by calculating the incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICER), defined as incremental unit of cost per additional health benefit (e.g., HIV/STI cases averted, QALYs) compared to the next least costly strategy. Following guidelines from the World Health Organization, a combined strategy was considered highly cost-effective if the incremental cost per QALY gained fell below the gross domestic product per capita (GDP) in Mexico (equivalent to US$ 10 300).

Findings: For CJ, the mixed intervention approach of interactive safer sex/didactic safer injection had an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of US$4360 ($310-$7200) per QALY gained compared with a dually didactic strategy. Using the dually interactive strategy had an ICER of US$5874 ($310-$7200) compared with the mixed approach. For TJ, the combination of interactive safer sex/didactic safer injection had an ICER of US$5921 ($104-$9500) per QALY compared with dually didactic. Strategies using the interactive safe injection intervention were dominated due to lack of efficacy advantage. The multivariate sensitivity analysis showed a 95% certainty that in both CJ and TJ the ICER for the mixed approach (interactive safer sex didactic safer injection intervention) was less than the GDP per capita for Mexico. The dual interactive approach met this threshold consistently in CJ, but not in TJ.

Interpretation: In the absence of an expanded NEP in CJ, the combined-interactive formats of the MMS behavioral intervention is highly cost-effective. In contrast, in TJ where NEP expansion suggests that improved access to sterile syringes significantly reduced injection-related risks, the interactive safer-sex combined didactic safer-injection was highly cost-effective compared with the combined didactic versions of the safer-sex and safer-injection formats of the MMS, with no added benefit from the interactive safer-injection component.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: Female sex workers who inject drugs are a particularly vulnerable group with potential risks of HIV infection stemming from both condomless sex and use of contaminated injecting equipment. In the northern border towns of Mexico, which are on major drug trafficking routes into the United States, the prevalence of HIV among female sex workers who inject drugs is 12%. This is in comparison with 6% among female sex workers who do not inject drugs and 0.3% among the general population. In this context, the authors conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis of a combined single-session brief behavioural programme. It was either didactic or interactive, to promote safer sexual and injection practices among female sex workers who inject drugs in two Mexican cities: Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana.

The authors found that the programme can be highly cost-effective in reducing HIV risky behaviours, although with varying results. Sensitivity analyses suggested that in both cities, the mixed approach (interactive safer sex/didactic safer injection intervention) was highly cost-effective. The dual interactive approach was highly cost-effective in Ciudad Juarez but not in Tijuana.

This article illustrates the importance of targeting programmes that take into consideration city-level contexts. Although the cities are similar in many ways, the double interactive approach was not highly cost-effective in the Tijuana setting. This is likely to be due to the fact that needle syringe distribution at the community level expanded at the same time, making the interactive safer injection practice component redundant. This supports previous research that community-level programmes, such as needle-exchange programmes, could be potentially more cost-effective than individual-level activities. Individual-level activities may then be best suited for settings where needle-syringe programmes are not available, such as in prisons. 

Latin America
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HIV and injecting ‘krokodile’

Krokodile Injectors in Ukraine: fueling the HIV Epidemic?

Booth RE, Davis JM, Brewster JT, Lisovska O, Dvoryak S. AIDS Behav. 2016 Feb;20(2):369-76. doi: 10.1007/s10461-015-1008-z.

This study was designed to assess the characteristics of krokodile injectors, a recent phenomenon in Ukraine, and HIV-related risk factors among people who inject drugs (PWID). In three Ukraine cities, Odessa, Donetsk and Nikolayev, 550 PWID were recruited between December 2012 and October 2013 using modified targeted sampling methods. The sample averaged 31 years of age and they had been injecting for over 12 years. Overall, 39% tested positive for HIV, including 45% of krokodile injectors. In the past 30 days, 25% reported injecting krokodile. Those who injected krokodile injected more frequently (p < 0.001) and they injected more often with others (p = 0.005). Despite knowing their HIV status to be positive, krokodile users did not reduce their injection frequency, indeed, they injected as much as 85% (p = 0.016) more frequently than those who did not know their HIV status or thought they were negative. This behavior was not seen in non-krokodile using PWID. Although only a small sample of knowledgeable HIV positive krokodile users was available (N = 12), this suggests that krokodile users may disregard their HIV status more so than non-krokodile users. In spite of widespread knowledge of its harmful physical consequences, a growing number of PWID are turning to injecting krokodile in Ukraine. Given the recency of krokodile use in the country, the associated higher frequency of injecting, a propensity to inject more often with others, and what could be a unique level of disregard of HIV among krokodile users, HIV incidence could increase in future years.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: This is an important study among a highly vulnerable population of people who inject drugs where HIV prevalence has been consistently high over the last decade. This is one of the first empirical studies to examine the role of krokodile use on HIV risk acquisition. Krokodile is a home produced drug that has become more popular among people who inject drugs in Ukraine and the Russian Federation over the last five years. There is a long history of injection with home-produced opioids and amphetamines in these countries. The key component of krokodile is codeine, an opioid, but severe side effects have been associated with its injection including tissue damage, gangrene and organ failure. This study highlights some of the characteristics and HIV risk behaviours associated with krokodile injection to inform appropriate HIV prevention programming. Findings note that people who inject krokodile are more likely to inject with others. This reflects the home-produced nature of the drug that facilitates more group injecting as people congregate at places where it is produced to buy and inject. Programmes need to focus on strategies to avoid injecting with other people’s used injecting equipment, such as marking equipment, as can happen in group injecting scenarios. This programme would ensure there are sufficient numbers of clean needles/syringes in circulation. Worryingly, a higher prevalence of HIV was observed among people who inject krokodile, most likely associated with their older age and more frequent injecting. Targeted harm reduction information is urgently needed for krokodile users to prevent further HIV transmission and prevent soft tissue damage. There is already a large network of needle-syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy available for people who inject drugs in Ukraine. However, access is often reduced since people who inject drugs are concerned about being arrested. Registration as a person who injects drugs causes problems with employment, families and police. Collaboration with the police is necessary to increase access to opioid substitution and needle and syringe programmes. Programmes are also required to reduce the stigma associated with injection in order to address the health needs of this population. 

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High adherence to on-demand PrEP and no increase in sexual risk behaviours

Uptake of PrEP and condom and sexual risk behavior among MSM during the ANRS IPERGAY trial.

Sagaon-Teyssier L, Suzan-Monti M, Demoulin B, Capitant C, Lorente N, Preau M, Mora M, Rojas Castro D, Chidiac C, Chas J, Meyer L, Molina JM, Spire B, Group AIS. AIDS Care. 2016 Feb 17:1-8. [Epub ahead of print]

The double-blind phase of the randomized ANRS IPERGAY trial, evaluating sexual activity-based oral HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), was conducted among high-risk men who have sex with men (MSM). Results showed an 86% (95% CI: 40-98) relative reduction in HIV incidence among participants with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate-emtricitabine vs. placebo. The present pooled analysis aimed to analyze (i) participants' adherence to the prescribed treatment and/or condom use during sexual intercourse and (ii) sexual behavior during the double-blind phase of the study. Four hundred MSM were enrolled in the trial. Every 2 months they completed online questionnaires collecting sexual behavior and PrEP adherence data regarding their most recent sexual intercourse. A total of 2232 questionnaires (M0-M24) were analyzed. Changes over time were evaluated using a mixed model accounting for multiple measures. Irrespective of sexual partner and practice type, on average, 42.6% (min: 32.1-max: 45.8%) reported PrEP use only during their most recent episode of sexual intercourse; 29% (22.9-35.6%) reported both PrEP and condom use; 11.7% (7.2-18.9%) reported condom-use only, and 16.7% (10.8-29.6%) reported no PrEP or condom use with no significant change during the study. Scheduled (i.e., correct) PrEP use was reported on average by 59.0% (47.2-68.5%) of those reporting PrEP use during their most recent sexual intercourse. Overall, 70.3% (65.3-79.4%) and 69.3% (58.3-75.4%) of participants reported, respectively, condomless anal and condomless receptive anal intercourse during their most recent sexual encounter without significant change during follow-up. Overall, on average 83.3% (min: 70.4-max: 89.2%) of participants protected themselves by PrEP intake or condom use or both during the trial, and no increase in at-risk sexual practices was observed. None of these indicators showed significant trend during the follow-up, although we found a tendency toward decrease (p = .19) of the median number of sexual partners strengthening the absence of behavioral disinhibition. On-demand PrEP within a comprehensive HIV prevention package could improve prevention in MSM.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an effective method of HIV prevention, and it is now recognised as a key element of combination prevention strategies in key populations. The IPERGAY trial evaluated the intermittent use of oral PrEP, timed around sexual activity, in gay men and other men who have sex with men. The investigators hypothesised that taking PrEP ‘on demand’, i.e. at the time of sexual activity rather than daily, would improve adherence and therefore its effectiveness. The reduction in HIV incidence in the trial is one of the highest reported at 86%.

This analysis of trial participants in the double-blind phase of the trial demonstrated that PrEP and/or condom use at the most recent sexual intercourse was reported at 80% of visits, and there was no evidence of a change over time. Adherence remained quite high over the 24 months of follow-up, with 60% reporting correct use of PrEP at each visit, although numbers were small owing to early stopping of the placebo arm. As with other studies of PrEP, there was no evidence of an increase in reported sexual risk behaviours over time. In addition, there was some suggestion of a trend towards a decreased number of partners. However, as trial participants were offered a comprehensive care package (including regular adherence and risk reduction counselling), it is difficult to separate the effects of the intensive support from the effects of the PrEP regimen itself.

The successful integration of PrEP into HIV combination prevention programmes will require an understanding of factors that facilitate its uptake and who is most likely to benefit from its use, as well as ensuring regular HIV testing and adequate support services are available.

Europe, Northern America
Canada, France
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Sex and drugs: poppers and HIV risk

Poppers use and risky sexual behaviors among men who have sex with men in Beijing, China.

Zhang H, Teng T, Lu H, Zhao Y, Liu H, Yin L, Sun Z, He X, Qian HZ, Ruan Y, Shao Y, Vermund SH. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 Dec 10. pii:S0376-8716(15)01807-4. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.11.037. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Although poppers are increasingly popular among MSM in China, little is known about the patterns of poppers use. The objectives of this study were to describe the patterns of poppers use and examine its association with sexual behaviors and HIV infection among MSM in Beijing, China.

Methods: As part of a multi-component HIV intervention trial, 3588 MSM were surveyed between March 2013 and March 2014 in Beijing, China. Blood samples were collected and tested for HIV and syphilis. The questionnaire collected information about socio-demographic and behavioral characteristics. Univariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to evaluate the correlates of poppers use.

Results: Over a quarter of men (27.5%) reported having used at least one type of drugs in the past three months. Poppers were the most popular one (26.8%). Poppers use was correlated with a higher HIV prevalence [odds ratio (OR): 1.38, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.11-1.70]. Demographic and sexual behavioral factors associated with poppers use included: younger age [adjusted OR (AOR): 1.56, 95% CI: 1.25-1.94], higher education (AOR: 1.61, 95% CI: 1.33-1.96), alcohol use (AOR: 1.32, 95% CI: 1.10-1.60), seeking male partners mainly via the internet (AOR: 1.60, 95% CI: 1.28-2.00), multiple male sex partnership (AOR: 2.22, 95% CI: 1.90-2.60), and unprotected receptive anal intercourse (AOR: 1.52, 95% CI: 1.28-1.81).

Conclusions: In this study, poppers use was positively associated with HIV infection and unprotected anal intercourse. Intervention efforts should be devoted to promote safer sex and HIV testing and counseling among MSM who use poppers.

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Editor’s notes: Poppers are butyl and other nitrites that were used in the past for heart pain. They can be inhaled to facilitate anal sex. Sniffing poppers relaxes the anal sphincter muscles, making anal intercourse easier and enhancing pleasure. Numerous studies have found an association between popper use and an increased risk of acquiring HIV. This may be due to the effect of poppers in dilating capillaries and increasing blood flow to the rectum. Such a biological effect may increase the risk to the receptive partner in anal sex, further to having less autonomy in determining whether a condom is used.

This large community-based study gathered information from adult men living in Beijing, who reported sex with men in the previous 12 months. The descriptive data reported in this paper were gathered in the first phase of what is intended to be a large multi-component HIV prevention intervention trial. These data illustrate high prevalence of popper use among gay men and other men who have sex with men in Beijing. Clearly, a priority of the trial should be testing strategies to address popper use in this population. The HIV epidemic in China has evolved to one in which sexual transmission predominates, with four out of five new infections in 2011 acquired through sexual exposure. In contrast to other drugs used to enhance sexual pleasure (such as methamphetamine, ecstasy, and ketamine), poppers are widely available in China at adult stores or through the internet. In light of the finding that popper users are more likely to use the internet, it may be possible to work with the community to design programmes using internet platforms to reach men most at risk. These could aim to raise awareness and encourage changes in sex and popper use norms to reduce HIV risk and make sex safer for gay men and other men who have sex with men in Beijing.

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