Publication : HIV prevention and treatment cascades among female sex workers in Benin, West Africa
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Background & Objectives Benin has a long-standing history of HIV prevention programs aimed at female sex workers (FSWs). We used data from a national survey among FSWs (2017) to assess the prevention and care cascades in this population.
Methods FSWs were recruited through cluster sampling of sex work sites. A questionnaire was administered, and HIV tested. HIV-positive participants were asked to provide dried-blood spots (DBS), tested for ARV and viral load. We assessed two prevention cascades (HIV testing and safer sex) and the treatment cascade, using a combination of self-reported and biological variables.
Results Mean age of the 1086 FSWs was 30 years. Half of them were Beninese and two-thirds had a primary school education level or less. Almost all FSWs had ever heard of HIV/AIDS. 79.1% had ever been tested, and 84.1% of the latter had been tested in the last year. In the previous six months, 90.1% were exposed to prevention messages. Women exposed to any HIV prevention message reported a higher level of consistent condom use in the last month (69.0%) than those who were not (48.5%, p<0.0001). HIV prevalence was 7.7%. Among HIV-positive women, 60.6% knew their status; among those, 90.5% were on ARV and 81.8% of them had a suppressed viral load.
Conclusions Despite long-standing HIV prevention programs for FSWs, the prevention indicators were often low. Linkage to care was good, viral suppression was sub-optimal, but knowledge of HIV-positive status was low. Exposing women to prevention messages is necessary, as to increase HIV testing.