7 research outputs found

    "It went through the roof": an observation study exploring the rise in PrEP uptake among Zimbabwean female sex workers in response to adaptations during Covid-19.

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    INTRODUCTION: Sisters with a Voice (Sisters), a programme providing community-led differentiated HIV prevention and treatment services, including condoms, HIV testing, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and antiretroviral therapy linkage for sex workers, reached over 26,000 female sex workers (FSW) across Zimbabwe in 2020. Zimbabwe's initial Covid "lockdown" in March 2020 and associated movement restrictions interrupted clinical service provision for 6 weeks, particularly in mobile clinics, triggering the adaptation of services for the Covid-19 context and a scale up of differentiated service delivery (DSD) models. PrEP service delivery decentralized with shifts from clinical settings towards community/home-based, peer-led PrEP services to expand and maintain access. We hypothesize that peer-led community-based provision of PrEP services influenced both demand and supply-side determinants of PrEP uptake. We observed the effect of these adaptations on PrEP uptake among FSW accessing services in Sisters in 2020. METHODS: New FSW PrEP initiations throughout 2020 were tracked by analysing routine Sisters programme data and comparing it with national PrEP initiation data for 2020. We mapped PrEP uptake among all negative FSW attending services in Sisters alongside Covid-19 adaptations and shifts in the operating environment throughout 2020: prior to lockdown (January-March 2020), during severe restrictions (April-June 2020), subsequent easing (July-September 2020) and during drug stockouts that followed (October-December 2020). RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: PrEP uptake in 2020 occurred at rates <25% (315 initiations or fewer) per month prior to the emergence of Covid-19. In response to Covid-19 restrictions, DSD models were scaled up in April 2020, including peer demand creation, community-based delivery, multi-month dispensing and the use of virtual platforms for appointment scheduling and post-PrEP initiation support. Beginning May 2020, PrEP uptake increased monthly, peaking at an initiation rate of 51% (n = 1360) in September 2020. Unexpected rise in demand coincided with national commodity shortages between October and December 2020, resulting in restriction of new initiations with sites prioritizing refills. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the impact of Covid-19 on the Sisters Programme and FSW mobility, DSD adaptations led to a large increase in PrEP initiations compared to pre-Covid levels demonstrating that a peer-led, community-based PrEP service delivery model is effective and can be adopted for long-term use

    Differentiated prevention and care to reduce the risk of HIV acquisition and transmission among female sex workers in Zimbabwe: study protocol for the 'AMETHIST' cluster randomised trial

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    BACKGROUND: Female sex workers (FSW) in sub-Saharan Africa are disproportionately affected by HIV and are critical to engage in HIV prevention, testing and care services. We describe the design of our evaluation of the 'AMETHIST' intervention, nested within a nationally-scaled programme for FSW in Zimbabwe. We hypothesise that the implementation of this intervention will result in a reduction in the risk of HIV transmission within sex work. METHODS: The AMETHIST intervention (Adapted Microplanning to Eliminate Transmission of HIV in Sex Transactions) is a risk-differentiated intervention for FSW, centred around the implementation of microplanning and self-help groups. It is designed to support uptake of, and adherence to, HIV prevention, testing and treatment behaviours among FSW. Twenty-two towns in Zimbabwe were randomised to receive either the Sisters programme (usual care) or the Sisters programme plus AMETHIST. The composite primary outcome is defined as the proportion of all FSW who are at risk of either HIV acquisition (HIV-negative and not fully protected by prevention interventions) or of HIV transmission (HIV-positive, not virally suppressed and not practicing consistent condom use). The outcome will be assessed after 2 years of intervention delivery in a respondent-driven sampling survey (total n = 4400; n = 200 FSW recruited at each site). Primary analysis will use the 'RDS-II' method to estimate cluster summaries and will adapt Hayes and Moulton's '2-step' method produce adjusted effect estimates. An in-depth process evaluation guided by our project trajectory will be undertaken. DISCUSSION: Innovative pragmatic trials are needed to generate evidence on effectiveness of combination interventions in HIV prevention and treatment in different contexts. We describe the design and analysis of such a study. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Pan African Clinical Trials Registry PACTR202007818077777 . Registered on 2 July 2020

    Potential reduction in female sex workers' risk of contracting HIV during coronavirus disease 2019.

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    Female sex workers' livelihoods in Zimbabwe have been severely impacted by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic due to closure of entertainment venues. Competition over fewer clients has reduced ability to negotiate condom use. At the same time as partner numbers have decreased, frequency of reported condomless sex has not increased, suggesting potential reduction in overall HIV and sexually transmitted infection risk and an opportunity for programmes to reach sex workers with holistic social and economic support and prevention services

    Facilitators and barriers to engaging with the DREAMS initiative among young women who sell sex aged 18–24 in Zimbabwe: a qualitative study

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    Background: Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) are at high risk of contracting HIV and exchanging sex for financial or material support heightens their risk. In Zimbabwe, the DREAMS initiative integrated education and employment opportunities within HIV health promotion and clinical services for vulnerable young women, including those who sell sex. While most participants accessed health services, fewer than 10% participated in any social programmes. Methods: We conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with 43 young women aged 18–24 to understand their experiences of engaging with the DREAMS programme. We purposively sampled participants for diversity in level of education, type and location of selling sex. We analysed the data by applying the Theoretical Domains Framework to explore facilitators and barriers to engaging with DREAMS. Results: Eligible women were motivated by hopes of escaping poverty, and their longer-term engagement was sustained through exposure to new social networks, including friendships with less vulnerable peers. Barriers included opportunity costs and expenses such as transport or equipment required for job placements. Participants also described pervasive stigma and discrimination related to their involvement in selling sex. Interviews highlighted the young women’s struggles in a context of entrenched social and material deprivation and structural discrimination that hindered their ability to take up most of the social services offered. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that while poverty was a key driver of participation in an integrated package of support, it also constrained the ability of highly vulnerable young women to benefit fully from the DREAMS initiative. Multi-layered HIV prevention approaches such as DREAMS that seek to alter complex and longstanding social and economic deprivation address many of the challenges faced by YWSS but will only succeed if the underlying drivers of HIV risk among YWSS are also addressed
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