2022 Volume 19, Issue 9, e1004097
In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) ages 15 to 24 years represent <10% of the population yet account for 1 in 5 new HIV infections. Although oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine (TDF/FTC) can be highly effective, low persistence in PrEP programs and poor adherence have limited its ability to reduce HIV incidence among women.
<jats:title>Methods and findings</jats:title>
A total of 336 AGYW participating in the PEPFAR-funded DREAMS PrEP program in western Kenya were enrolled into a study of PrEP use conducted between 6/2019 to 1/2020. AGYW, which used daily oral TDF/FTC, completed interviews and provided dried blood spots (DBS) for measurement of tenofovir-diphosphate (TFV-DP) concentrations at enrollment and 3 months later, and 176/302 (58.3%, 95% confidence interval [95% CI 52.3 to 63.8]) met our definition of PrEP persistence: having expressed intention to use PrEP and attended both the second interview and an interim refill visit. Among AGYW with DBS taken at the second interview, only 9/197 (4.6%, [95% CI 1.6 to 7.5]) had protective TFV-DP levels (≥700 fmol/punch) and 163/197 (82.7%, [95% CI 77.5 to 88]) had levels consistent with no recent PrEP use (<10 fmol/punch). Perception of being at moderate-to-high risk for HIV if not taking PrEP was associated with persistence (adjusted odds ratio, 10.17 [95% CI 5.14 to 20.13], <jats:italic>p</jats:italic> < 0.001) in a model accounting for county of residence and variables that had <jats:italic>p</jats:italic>-value <0.1 in unadjusted analysis (age, being in school, initiated PrEP 2 to 3 months before the first interview, still active in DREAMS, having children, having multiple sex partners, partner aware of PrEP use, partner very supportive of PrEP use, partner has other partners, AGYW believes that a partner puts her at risk, male condom use, injectable contraceptive use, and implant contraceptive use). Among AGYW who reported continuing PrEP, >90% indicated they were using PrEP to prevent HIV, although almost all had non-protective TFV-DP levels. Limitations included short study duration and inclusion of only DREAMS participants.
Many AGYW persisted in the PrEP program without taking PrEP frequently enough to receive benefit. Notably, AGYW who persisted had a higher self-perceived risk of HIV infection. These AGYW may be optimal candidates for long-acting PrEP.
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