Identifying Adolescent Girls and Young Women at High Risk for HIV Acquisition: A Risk Assessment Tool From the Girl Power-Malawi Study

Sex Transm Dis. 2020 Nov;47(11):760-766. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000001242.


Background: Prioritizing HIV prevention for adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) at high risk for HIV acquisition in sub-Saharan Africa (typically considered ≥3 per 100 person-years [PYs]) is urgently needed, but identifying these AGYW is challenging. We sought to assess and, if needed, enhance a risk assessment tool from the VOICE trial for identifying AGYW at high risk for HIV in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Methods: A multisite prospective cohort study was conducted among sexually active AGYW 15 to 24 years old at 4 health centers in 2016 to 2017. The VOICE tool was first applied and then updated by excluding variables that were not predictive and adding variables that were. Incidence rates (IRs), incidence rate ratios, 95% confidence intervals (CIs), area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC), sensitivity, and specificity were calculated.

Results: Seven hundred ninety-five participants experienced 14 seroconversions for 672 PYs (IR, 2.08 per 100 PYs; 95% CI, 1.23-3.52). The VOICE tool had moderate predictive ability (AUC, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.52-0.75). Maintaining 2 variables (genital ulcers and vaginal discharge), removing 5 sociodemographic variables, and adding 2 variables (ever pregnant and >5-year male-female age gap) enhanced performance (AUC, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.69-0.89). Thirty-five percent had a score of 0, 41% had a score of 1 to 2, and 24% had a score >3. A score >1 resulted in 100% sensitivity, 35.9% specificity, and an IR of 3.25 per 100 PYs. A score >3 resulted in 64.3% sensitivity, 76.8% specificity, and an IR of 5.89 per 100 PYs.

Conclusions: A simple risk assessment tool identified a subset of AGYW in Malawi at high risk for HIV acquisition who may benefit from biomedical HIV prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Malawi / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Partners
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / psychology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / transmission
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology
  • Young Adult