Integrated provision of topical pre-exposure prophylaxis in routine family planning services in South Africa: a non-inferiority randomized controlled trial

J Int AIDS Soc. 2019 Sep;22(9):e25381. doi: 10.1002/jia2.25381.


Introduction: Tenofovir-containing oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is recommended for those at substantial risk as part of combination HIV prevention. However, there are limited data, beyond clinical trial settings, to guide the introduction of PrEP in healthcare services with adequate levels of adherence. Since young women in Africa are at high risk of HIV and likely to utilize family planning (FP) services, the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of integrating topical PrEP provision into routine FP services was assessed.

Methods: This two-arm, randomized controlled, non-inferiority, open-label extension trial was undertaken in urban and rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. HIV-negative eligible women (n = 372) from the parent trial (Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) 004) were randomized to receive tenofovir gel either through intervention (FP clinics, n = 189) or control clinics (CAPRISA research clinics, n = 183). Non-inferiority was predefined as gel use in the intervention clinics would be no more than 20% lower than in the control clinics. Adherence, retention and HIV incidence rates were assessed.

Results: Women were enrolled between November 2012 and October 2014, and followed up for 682.3 women-years (mean = 22 months). Baseline characteristics of women in intervention and control clinics were comparable and retention rates were 92.1% and 92.3% respectively. Women in intervention clinics and control clinics returned on average 5.2 (95% confidence interval (CI): 4.7 to 5.7) and 5.7 (CI: 5.2 to 6.2) used gel applicators per month respectively, with a mean difference of -0.47 (CI: -1.16 to 0.21). Per-protocol estimates were on average 5.5 (CI: 5.0 to 6.1) and 5.8 (CI: 5.3 to 6.3) respectively, with a mean difference of -0.25 (CI: -0.98 to 0.48), meeting the non-inferiority criteria. Adherence, based on proportion of reported sex acts covered by two gel doses, was 79.9% (CI: 76.7 to 83.2) in intervention compared with 73.9% (CI: 70.7 to 77.1) in control clinics; mean difference:6.0% (CI: 1.5 to 10.6) (p = 0.009). HIV incidence rates were 3.5 (CI: 1.8 to 6.0) and 3.6 (CI: 1.9 to 6.3) per 100 women-years in intervention and control clinics respectively. Both these incidence rates were lower than the age-standardized rate of 6.2 per 100 women-years (n = 444) in the placebo arm of the parent trial (p = 0.019).

Conclusions: Provision of topical PrEP as part of an integrated FP service achieved higher adherence, and was as feasible, acceptable and effective in preventing HIV as provision through a research setting. This provides useful evidence for scale-up of oral PrEP in urban and rural high burden communities.

Keywords: HIV prevention; adherence; implementation of PrEP scale-up; integration into family planning services; pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); tenofovir.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Family Planning Services
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis / methods
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Tenofovir / therapeutic use*
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Tenofovir