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Delays to PrEP initiation among female sex workers in Côte d'Ivoire (ANRS 12381 PRINCESSE project)

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BACKGROUND: To describe the delays to initiation of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among female sex workers (FSW) in Côte d''Ivoire.
METHODS: The ANRS 12381 PRINCESSE project is a single-arm interventional cohort aiming to evaluate the implementation of a comprehensive and community-based care offer among FSW aged '¥18 years in the San Pedro region since end-2019, through a mobile clinic operating on 10 prostitution sites (visited every two weeks). PrEP is offered to all HIV-positive FSW after verifying the creatinine level (results valid for one month). We described the time between FSW's interest for PrEP and PrEP initiation (or end of follow-up) among HIV- and hepatitis B virus-negative (HBsAg-) FSW included until end-October 2021. The probability of PrEP initiation since PrEP interest is described through a Kaplan-Meier curve censored on end-November 2021 (an analysis censored at the date of the last visit was also conducted).
RESULTS: Of the 362 FSW included in the PRINCESSE cohort, 302 were HIV-/AgHBs-, and for 296 of them, PrEP was presented by medical staff (95.2% at inclusion). In total, 292 FSW expressed PrEP interest, and 192 (65.8%) initiated PrEP: 18 on the same day (the biological test having been performed during a previous visit), 148 during the next visit (median time since interest: 3 weeks [Inter-Quartile Range: 2-6]) and 26 during a subsequent visit (median time: 20 weeks [9-36]). The probability of PrEP initiation after PrEP interest was 39.0% at 1 month and 56.6% at 3 months (censoring on the date of the last visit, these proportions were 50.7% and 74.6%, respectively). Among the 100 FSW who did not initiate PrEP despite expressing interest, 68 were never seen again in the project; 4 declared that they were no longer interested in PrEP (median time since interest: 12 weeks [10-19]), 1 was tested HIV+ (delay of 2 weeks), and 27 were seen >1 month later (their biological tests were no longer valid).
CONCLUSIONS: Despite strong PrEP interest among FSW, PrEP initiation remained suboptimal. Barriers to PrEP initiation should be more explored and considered to find appropriate solutions to make PrEP effective among this specific key population.