Background: Pre-exposure prophylaxis with oral antiretroviral treatment (oral PrEP) for HIV-uninfected injection drug users (IDUs) is potentially useful in controlling HIV epidemics with a significant injection drug use component. We estimated the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of strategies for using oral PrEP in various combinations with methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) and antiretroviral treatment (ART) in Ukraine, a representative case for mixed HIV epidemics.
Methods and findings: We developed a dynamic compartmental model of the HIV epidemic in a population of non-IDUs, IDUs who inject opiates, and IDUs in MMT, adding an oral PrEP program (tenofovir/emtricitabine, 49% susceptibility reduction) for uninfected IDUs. We analyzed intervention portfolios consisting of oral PrEP (25% or 50% of uninfected IDUs), MMT (25% of IDUs), and ART (80% of all eligible patients). We measured health care costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), HIV prevalence, HIV infections averted, and incremental cost effectiveness. A combination of PrEP for 50% of IDUs and MMT lowered HIV prevalence the most in both IDUs and the general population. ART combined with MMT and PrEP (50% access) averted the most infections (14,267). For a PrEP cost of $950, the most cost-effective strategy was MMT, at $520/QALY gained versus no intervention. The next most cost-effective strategy consisted of MMT and ART, costing $1,000/QALY gained compared to MMT alone. Further adding PrEP (25% access) was also cost effective by World Health Organization standards, at $1,700/QALY gained. PrEP alone became as cost effective as MMT at a cost of $650, and cost saving at $370 or less.
Conclusions: Oral PrEP for IDUs can be part of an effective and cost-effective strategy to control HIV in regions where injection drug use is a significant driver of the epidemic. Where budgets are limited, focusing on MMT and ART access should be the priority, unless PrEP has low cost.