Introduction: Geographic and transportation barriers are associated with poorer HIV-related health outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa, but data on the impact of these barriers on prevention interventions are limited. We estimated the association between distance to clinic and other transportation-related barriers on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) uptake and initial clinic visit attendance in a rural community in southwestern Uganda enrolled in the ongoing SEARCH study (NCT01864603).
Methods: Community-wide HIV testing was conducted and offered to adult (≥15 years) participants in Ruhoko. Participants were eligible for PrEP based on an empiric risk score, having an HIV-discordant partner, or self-referral at either the community health campaign or during home-based testing from March to April 2017. We collected data from PrEP-eligible households on GPS-measured distance to clinic, walking time to clinic and road difficulty. A sample of participants was also asked to identify their primary barriers to PrEP use with a semi-quantitative questionnaire. We used multivariable logistic regression to evaluate the association between transportation barriers and (1) PrEP uptake among PrEP-eligible individuals and (2) four-week clinic visit attendance among PrEP initiators.
Results: Of the 701 PrEP-eligible participants, 272 (39%) started PrEP within four weeks; of these, 45 (17%) were retained at four weeks. Participants with a distance to clinic of ≥2 km were less likely to start PrEP (aOR 0.34; 95% CI 0.15 to 0.79, p = 0.012) and less likely to be retained on PrEP once initiated (aOR 0.29; 95% CI 0.10 to 0.84; p = 0.024). Participants who were deemed eligible during home-based testing and did not have the option of same-day PrEP start were also substantially less likely to initiate PrEP (aOR 0.16, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.37, p < 0.001). Of participants asked to name barriers to PrEP use (N = 98), the most frequently cited were "needing to take PrEP every day" (N = 18) and "low/no risk of getting HIV" (N = 18). Transportation-related barriers, including "clinic is too far away" (N = 6) and "travel away from home" (N = 4) were also reported.
Conclusions: Distance to clinic is a significant predictor of PrEP uptake and four-week follow-up visit attendance in a community in rural Uganda. Interventions that address geographic and transportation barriers may improve PrEP uptake and retention in sub-Saharan Africa.
Keywords: HIV; PrEP; implementation science; prevention; transportation barriers.
© 2019 The Authors. Journal of the International AIDS Society published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of the International AIDS Society.