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Use of an HIV-risk screening tool to identify optimal candidates for PrEP scale-up among men who have sex with men in Toronto, Canada: disconnect between objective and subjective HIV risk

James Wilton, Taylor Kain, Shawn Fowler, Trevor A Hart, Troy Grennan, John Maxwell, Darrell HS Tan


Introduction: Identifying appropriate pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) candidates is a challenge in planning for the safe and effective roll-out of this strategy. We explored the use of a validated HIV risk screening tool, HIV Incidence Risk Index for Men who have Sex with Men (HIRI-MSM), to identify “optimal” candidates among MSM testing at a busy sexual health clinic’s community testing sites in Toronto, Canada.

Methods: Between November 2014 and April 2015, we surveyed MSM undergoing anonymous HIV testing at community testing sites in Toronto, Canada, to quantify “optimal” candidates for scaling up PrEP roll-out, defined as being at high objective HIV risk (scoring ≥10 on the HIRI-MSM), perceiving oneself at moderate-to-high HIV risk and being willing to use PrEP. Cascades were constructed to identify barriers to broader PrEP uptake. The association between HIRI-MSM score and both willingness to use PrEP and perceived HIV risk were explored in separate multivariable logistic regression analyses.

Results: Of 420 respondents, 64.4% were objectively at high risk, 52.5% were willing to use PrEP and 27.2% perceived themselves at moderate-to-high HIV risk. Only 16.4% were “optimal” candidates. Higher HIRI-MSM scores were positively associated with both willingness to use PrEP (aOR=1.7 per 10 score increase, 95%CI=1.3–2.2) and moderate-to-high perceived HIV risk (aOR=1.7 per 10 score increase, 95%CI=1.2–2.3). The proportion of men who were “optimal” candidates increased to 42.9% when the objective HIV risk cut-off was changed to top quartile of HIRI-MSM scores (≥26). In our full cascade, a very low proportion (5.3%) of MSM surveyed could potentially benefit from PrEP under current conditions. The greatest barrier in the cascade was low perception of HIV risk among high-risk men, but considerable numbers were also lost in downstream cascade steps. Of men at high objective HIV risk, 68.3% did not perceive themselves to be at moderate-to-high HIV risk, 23.6% were unaware of PrEP, 40.1% were not willing to use PrEP, 47.6% lacked a family physician with whom they felt comfortable discussing sexual health, and 31.6% had no means to cover the cost of PrEP.

Conclusions: A higher HIRI-MSM cut-off may be helpful for identifying candidates for PrEP scale-up. Improving engagement in the PrEP cascade will require interventions to simultaneously address multiple barriers.

Keywords: risk perception; risk behaviours; men who have sex with men; screening; pre-exposure prophylaxis; HIV.

(Published: 3 June 2016)

Citation:Wilton J et al. Journal of the International AIDS Society 2016, 19:20777 |

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Journal of the International AIDS Society | eISSN 1758-2652 | Editors-in-Chief: Susan Kippax and Kenneth Mayer

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