Open Access Research article

Increasing condom use and declining STI prevalence in high-risk MSM and TGs: evaluation of a large-scale prevention program in Tamil Nadu, India

Thilakavathi Subramanian1*, Lakshmi Ramakrishnan2, Santhakumar Aridoss1, Prabuddhagopal Goswami2, Boopathi Kanguswami1, Mathew Shajan2, Rajat Adhikary3, Girish Kumar Chethrapilly Purushothaman1, Senthil Kumar Ramamoorthy1, Eswaramurthy Chinnaswamy1, Ilaya Bharathy Veeramani1 and Ramesh Shivram Paranjape4

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute of Epidemiology, ICMR, Chennai, India

2 FHI 360 India, New Delhi, India

3 FHI 360 Headquarters, Washington, USA

4 National AIDS Research Institute, ICMR, Pune, India

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:857  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-857

Published: 17 September 2013



This paper presents an evaluation of Avahan, a large scale HIV prevention program that was implemented using peer-mediated strategies, condom distribution and sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinical services among high-risk men who have sex with men (HR-MSM) and male to female transgender persons (TGs) in six high-prevalence state of Tamil Nadu, in southern India.


Two rounds of large scale cross-sectional bio-behavioural surveys among HR-MSM and TGs and routine program monitoring data were used to assess changes in program coverage, condom use and prevalence of STIs (including HIV) and their association to program exposure.


The Avahan program for HR-MSM and TGs in Tamil Nadu was significantly scaled up and contacts by peer educators reached 77 percent of the estimated denominator by the end of the program’s fourth year. Exposure to the program increased between the two rounds of surveys for both HR-MSM (from 66 percent to 90 percent; AOR = 4.6; p < 0.001) and TGs (from 74.5 percent to 83 percent; AOR = 1.82; p < 0.06). There was an increase in consistent condom use by HR-MSM with their regular male partners (from 33 percent to 46 percent; AOR = 1.9; p < 0.01). Last time condom use with paying male partners (up from 81 percent to 94 percent; AOR = 3.6; p < 0.001) also showed an increase. Among TGs, the increase in condom use with casual male partners (18 percent to 52 percent; AOR = 1.8; p < 0.27) was not significant, and last time condom use declined significantly with paying male partners (93 percent to 80 percent; AOR = 0.32; p < 0.015). Syphilis declined significantly among both HR-MSM (14.3 percent to 6.8 percent; AOR = 0.37; p < 0.001) and TGs (16.6 percent to 4.2 percent; AOR = 0.34; p < 0.012), while change in HIV prevalence was not found to be significant for HR-MSM (9.7 percent to 10.9 percent) and TGs (12 percent to 9.8 percent). For both groups, change in condom use with commercial and non-commercial partners was found to be strongly linked with exposure to the Avahan program.


The Avahan program for HR-MSM and TGs in Tamil Nadu achieved a high coverage, resulting in improved condom use by HR-MSM with their regular and commercial male partners. Declining STI prevalence and stable HIV prevalence reflect the positive effects of the prevention strategy. Outcomes from the program logic model indiacte the effectiveness of the program for HR-MSM and TGs in Tamil Nadu.