Population-level effectiveness of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention among men who have sex with men in Montréal (Canada): a modelling study of surveillance and survey data

J Int AIDS Soc. 2023 Dec;26(12):e26194. doi: 10.1002/jia2.26194.


Introduction: HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been recommended and partly subsidized in Québec, Canada, since 2013. We evaluated the population-level impact of PrEP on HIV transmission among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Montréal, Québec's largest city, over 2013-2021.

Methods: We used an agent-based mathematical model of sexual HIV transmission to estimate the fraction of HIV acquisitions averted by PrEP compared to a counterfactual scenario without PrEP. The model was calibrated to local MSM survey, surveillance, and cohort data and accounted for COVID-19 pandemic impacts on sexual activity, HIV prevention, and care. PrEP was modelled from 2013 onwards, assuming 86% individual-level effectiveness. The PrEP eligibility criteria were: any anal sex unprotected by condoms (past 6 months) and either multiple partnerships (past 6 months) or multiple uses of post-exposure prophylaxis (lifetime). To assess potential optimization strategies, we modelled hypothetical scenarios prioritizing PrEP to MSM with high sexual activity (≥11 anal sex partners annually) or aged ⩽45 years, increasing coverage to levels achieved in Vancouver, Canada (where PrEP is free-of-charge), and improving retention.

Results: Over 2013-2021, the estimated annual HIV incidence decreased from 0.4 (90% credible interval [CrI]: 0.3-0.6) to 0.2 (90% CrI: 0.1-0.2) per 100 person-years. PrEP coverage among HIV-negative MSM remained low until 2015 (<1%). Afterwards, coverage increased to a maximum of 10% of all HIV-negative MSM, or about 16% of the 62% PrEP-eligible HIV-negative MSM in 2020. Over 2015-2021, PrEP averted an estimated 20% (90% CrI: 11%-30%) of cumulative HIV acquisitions. The hypothetical scenarios modelled showed that, at the same coverage level, prioritizing PrEP to high sexual activity MSM could have averted 30% (90% CrI: 19%-42%) of HIV acquisitions from 2015-2021. Even larger impacts could have resulted from higher coverage. Under the provincial eligibility criteria, reaching 10% coverage among HIV-negative MSM in 2015 and 30% in 2019, like attained in Vancouver, could have averted up to 63% (90% CrI: 54%-70%) of HIV acquisitions from 2015 to 2021.

Conclusions: PrEP reduced population-level HIV transmission among Montréal MSM. However, our study suggests missed prevention opportunities and adds support for public policies that reduce PrEP barriers, financial or otherwise, to MSM at risk of HIV acquisition.

Keywords: antiretroviral; combination prevention; elimination; epidemiology; impact evaluation; mathematical modelling; sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-HIV Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections* / prevention & control
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis* / methods
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*


  • Anti-HIV Agents