Background: As pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) moves closer to availability in developing countries, practical considerations for implementation become important. We conducted a consultation with district-level community stakeholders experienced in HIV-prevention interventions with at-risk populations in Bondo and Rarieda, Kenya to generate locally grounded approaches to the future rollout of oral PrEP to four populations: fishermen, widows, female sex workers, and serodiscordant couples.
Methods: The 20 consultation participants represented the Ministry of Health, faith- and community-based organizations, health facilities, community groups, and nongovernmental organizations. Participants divided into breakout groups and followed a structured discussion guide asking them to identify barriers to implementing HIV-prevention interventions (including PrEP) with each population. Questions also solicited solutions for addressing these barriers, as well as other facilitators for PrEP implementation. In particular, questions focused on how to encourage people to screen for PrEP eligibility by having HIV and other blood tests and how to encourage compliance with ongoing HIV testing.
Results: The barriers and facilitators/solutions discussants provided were frequently population-specific, but there were also broad-level similarities across populations. Service delivery barriers to HIV-prevention interventions concerned the need for staff trained to address the needs of particular populations. Service delivery facilitators to provision of ongoing HIV testing consisted of offering testing options besides facility-based testing. Stigma was the main community-level barrier for all groups, whereas barriers at the level of target populations included mobility; lifestyle and life circumstances, especially cultural norms among fishermen and widows; and fears, lack of awareness, and misinformation. Proposed facilitators and strategies for addressing community- and population-level barriers included topic-specific education within the populations and community, involvement of partners and family members, mass HIV testing, and peer educators. Barriers to PrEP uptake included non-adherence to pill taking and missing clinic visits. For drug adherence, facilitators were counselling and involving family members. Discussants suggested that client reminders, e.g., home visits, were needed to encourage clients to keep their clinic appointments.
Conclusions: Strategies for encouraging eligibility screening and ongoing HIV testing will have local and population-specific aspects. Our results nonetheless apply to similar populations throughout sub-Saharan Africa and reach beyond oral PrEP to other ARV-based PrEP formulations.