Increase in condom use and decline in prevalence of sexually transmitted infections among high-risk men who have sex with men and transgender persons in Maharashtra, India: Avahan, the India AIDS Initiative
1 FHI 360 India, H-5 Green Park Extension, New Delhi 110016, India
2 National AIDS Research Institute (ICMR), Pune, Maharashtra, India
3 Formerly with FHI 360, New Delhi, India
4 FHI 360 Headquarters, Washington, USA
BMC Public Health 2014, 14:784 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-784Published: 3 August 2014
The present study assessed coverage, changes in condom use, and prevalence of HIV and other STIs among high-risk men who have sex with men (HR-MSM; highly visible, recruited from cruising sites/sex venues) and transgender (TG; male-to-female transgender persons, also called hijras) in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Data from Avahan’s computerized management information system; two rounds of integrated behavioral and biological assessment (IBBA) surveys (Round 1 with 653 HR-MSM/TG and Round 2 with 652 HR-MSM/TG); and project-supported condom social marketing was used for the present analysis. Logistic regression models were used to assess changes in key indicators over these two rounds and to explore the association between exposure to Avahan interventions and condom use and STI prevalence in HR-MSM/TG.
By December 2007, Avahan had reached about 90% of the estimated HR-MSM/TG population, and 83% of the estimated total population had visited STI clinics by March 2009. Free direct condom distribution by Avahan program NGOs and social marketing outlets in Maharashtra increased from about 2.7 million condoms in 2004 to 15.4 million in 2008. HR-MSM/TG were more likely to report higher consistent condom use (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 1.90; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.01-3.58) with regular male partners (spouse/lover/boyfriend) in Round 2 of IBBA, compared to Round 1. HR-MSM/TG exposed to Avahan interventions were more likely to report consistent condom use with regular male partners (AOR: 2.46; CI 1.34-4.52) than those who were unexposed. Prevalence of reactive syphilis serology declined significantly from 8.8% in Round 1 to 1.1% in Round 2 (p = 0.001), while the observed change HIV prevalence (12.3% to 6.3%, p = 0.16) was insignificant.
The current evaluation provides evidence for successful scale up and coverage of target population by Avahan interventions in Maharashtra. The assessment findings showed improved accessibility to condoms and reduced risk behaviours with male sexual partners. Syphilis prevalence declined; however HIV prevalence did not change and is still a major concern. Continued strengthening of core programmatic strategies are needed to effectively improve condom use with all partner types and to help bring sustained reductions in HIV risk in HR-MSM/TG and its onward transmission.