N’zebo Marcellin Nouaman, Valentine Becquet, Jean-Marie Masumbuko, Camille Anoma, Kouamé Soh, Mélanie Plazy, Christine Danel, Serge Eholié and Joseph Larmarange
Female sex workers (FSW) are a population at high risk of HIV acquisition. New tools to diagnose recent HIV infection may be used to better describe risk of HIV acquisition in this group. The ANRS 12361 PrEP-CI project aimed to estimate HIV incidence and describe risk factors among FSW in Côte d’Ivoire.
The study was conducted between September 2016 and March 2017 among FSW aged ≥18 years old in Abidjan and San Pedro. Two rapid tests for recent HIV infection (Determine®, Alere and Vikia®, bio Mérieux) were offered to FSW; in case of positive result, a dried blood sport was collected and window period of infection determined using a test for recent infection (EIA-RI) adapted to the Ivorian context. A standardized sociodemographic questionnaire was then administered to FSW by female peer educators, completed with qualitative interviews and focus groups with 60 FSW.
1000 SW (400 in San Pedro and 600 in Abidjan) with a median age of 25 years (interquartile range: 21-29) were included in the study and screened for HIV. Of these, 39 were diagnosed with HIV, 7 of which were newly infected (mean duration of infection was 113 days), corresponding to an HIV incidence of 2.3% [95% confidence interval: 1.6 - 3.1%]. The incidence was higher in San Pedro (3.3% [2.2-4.5]) than in Abidjan (1.6% [1.1-2.2]); this can be explained by qualitative data in which FSW in San Pedro expressed difficulties (distance, time, costs ...) in accessing health care services and prevention methods, particularly regarding condoms. HIV infection was also associated with vulnerability: the incidence was higher among those who charged ≤ 2000 CFA francs per intercourse (3.3% vs. 0.7%), those who performed on the streets or in hotels (5.4% and 4.2%, respectively, vs. 3.9% in brothel and 0.8% in bar – drinking spot), and among those who had more than 5 clients the last working day (6.1% vs. 1.8% among those who had under 5 clients) and who could be more difficult to identify and refer to HIV prevention services by female peer educators. Finally, FSW under <25 years old were at higher risk of infection (2.8%) than older ones (1.8%), and HIV incidence was associated with other sexually transmitted infections (STI) (2.5% in those who had ≥ 1 STI in the last 12 months vs. 1.9%). Contrary to expectations, an extensive sex work experience did not reduce exposure to HIV, when we compared FSW who had been working for more than 3 years with the ones who had newly arrived in the sex work industry (2.5% vs. 2.0%).
This study is one of the first to estimate HIV incidence in Côte d’Ivoire among FSW. This key population is much more exposed than the rest of the general population (2.3% vs. 0.06% estimated by UNAIDS). New infections seem to concentrated among younger FSW in precarious situations and working in remote areas, such as San Pedro area. These vulnerable subgroups should therefore be a priority target for prevention programs such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as recommended by WHO.
Nouaman Marcellin, Becquet Valentine, Masumbuko Jean-Marie, Anoma Camille, Soh Kouamé, Plazy Mélanie, Danel Christine, Eholié Serge and Larmarange Joseph (2019) “Female sex workers and HIV acquisition in Côte d’Ivoire: the burden of precariousness and working conditions (ANRS 12361 PREP-CI)” (poster discussion), presented at the INTEREST Workshop, Accra.