Awareness of HIV status and risk among key populations in India

HIV care continuum among men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs in India: barriers to successful engagement.

Mehta SH, Lucas GM, Solomon S, Srikrishnan AS, McFall AM, Dhingra N, Nandagopal P, Kumar MS, Celentano DD, Solomon SS. Clin Infect Dis. 2015 Aug 6. pii: civ669. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: We characterize the HIV care continuum for men who have sex with men (MSM) and people who inject drugs (PWID) across India.

Methods: We recruited 12 022 MSM and 14 481 PWID across 26 Indian cities using respondent-driven sampling (9/2012-12/2013). Participants were ≥18 years and either 1) self-identified as male and reported sex with a man in the prior year (MSM); or 2) reported injection drug use in the prior 2 years (PWID). Correlates of awareness of HIV positive status were characterized using multi-level logistic regression.

Results: 1146 MSM were HIV-infected of whom a median 30% were aware of their HIV positive status, 23% were linked to care, 22% were retained pre-ART, 16% initiated ART, 16% were currently on ART, and 10% had suppressed VL. There was site variability (awareness range: 0-90%; suppressed VL range: 0-58%). 2906 PWID were HIV-infected of whom a median 41% were aware, 36% linked to care, 31% were retained pre-ART, 20% initiated ART, 18% were currently on ART, and 15% had suppressed VL. Similar site variability was observed (awareness range: 2-93%; suppressed VL range: 0-47%). Factors significantly associated with awareness were region, older age, being married (MSM) or female (PWID), other service utilization (PWID), more lifetime sexual partners (MSM) and needle sharing (PWID). Ongoing injection drug use (PWID) and alcohol (MSM) were associated with lower awareness.

Conclusions: In this large sample, the major barrier to HIV care engagement was awareness of HIV positive status. Efforts should focus on linking HIV testing to other essential services.

Abstract access  [1]

Editor’s notes: The UNAIDS target of 90-90-90 (90% of HIV positive individuals knowing their status, 90% of people being on ART and 90% of people on ART being virally suppressed) applies to all people living with HIV, including people in key populations who can be hard to reach in some settings. In India, declines in HIV prevalence have been seen among women attending antenatal clinics, but not in the key populations of gay men and other men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs. In this large, community-based, study of gay men and other men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs across India, the majority of people living with HIV (70% of gay men and other men who have sex with men and 59% of people who inject drugs) were unaware of their HIV status. Of people who were aware of their status, the proportions receiving sustained ART were relatively low (68% of gay men and other men who have sex with men and 52% of people who inject drugs). Notably, among people on ART, levels of viral suppression were high and comparable to that in high-income settings. The study highlights awareness of HIV status as the primary barrier to HIV care in these populations, and the importance of integrating HIV testing across healthcare services for vulnerable populations, using same-day rapid tests to maximise linkage-to-care. However, to have a real impact on outcomes across the HIV care continuum, additional strategies will be necessary. These are needed together with large-scale public policy changes to modify the broader social environment – such as decriminalisation of same-sex behaviour.

Asia [9]
India [10]
  • [11]