Objective: To determine the impact of a community empowerment model of combination HIV prevention (Project Shikamana) among female sex workers (FSW) in Iringa, Tanzania.
Methods: We conducted a 2-community randomized trial. Intervention elements included the following: (1) Community-led drop-in center and mobilization activities; (2) venue-based peer education, condom distribution, and HIV testing; (3) peer service navigation; (4) provider sensitivity trainings; and (5) SMS reminders. We used time-location sampling to enroll 496 FSW and conducted a survey and blood draws to screen for HIV and assess viral load at 0 and 18 months. We conducted an intent-to-treat analysis using logistic and Poisson regression and inverse probability weighting for primary outcomes.
Results: The analysis included 171 HIV-positive and 216 HIV-negative FSW who completed baseline and 18-month study visits. Participants in the intervention were significantly less likely to become infected with HIV at 18-month follow-up (RR 0.38; P = 0.047), with an HIV incidence of 5.0% in the intervention vs. 10.4% control. Decreases in inconsistent condom use over time were significantly greater in the intervention (72.0%-43.6%) vs. control (68.8%-54.0%; RR 0.81, P = 0.042). At follow-up, we observed significant differences in behavioral HIV care continuum outcomes, and positive, but nonsignificant, increases in viral suppression (40.0%-50.6%) in the intervention vs. control (35.9%-47.4%). There was a strong association of between higher intervention exposure and HIV outcomes including viral suppression.
Conclusions: Project Shikamana is the first trial of community empowerment-based combination prevention among FSW in Africa to show a significant reduction in HIV incidence warranting its broader implementation and evaluation.