New HIV infections remain higher in women than men in sub-Saharan Africa. Preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an effective HIV prevention measure, currently prioritized for those at highest risk, such as female sex workers (FSWs), for whom it is most cost-effective. However, the greatest number of HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa occurs in women in the general population. As countries consider wider PrEP scale-up, there is a need to weigh the population-level impact, cost, and relative cost-effectiveness to inform priority setting.
We developed mathematical models of HIV risk to women and derived tools to highlight key considerations for PrEP programming. The models were fitted to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, spanning a range of HIV burden in sub-Saharan Africa. The impact, cost, and cost-effectiveness of PrEP scale-up for adolescent girls and young women (AGYW), women 25 to 34 years old, and women 35 to 49 years old were assessed, accounting for differences in population sizes and the low program retention levels reported in demonstration projects.
Preexposure prophylaxis could avert substantially more infections a year among women in general population than among FSW. The greatest number of infections could be averted annually among AGYW in South Africa (24-fold that for FSW). In Zimbabwe, the greatest number of infections could be averted among women 25 to 34 years old (8-fold that for FSW); and in Kenya, similarly between AGYW and women 25 to 34 years old (3-fold that for FSW). However, the unit costs of PrEP delivery for AGYW, women 25 to 34 years old, and women 35 to 49 years old would have to reduce considerably (by 70.8%–91.0% across scenarios) for scale-up to these populations to be as cost-effective as for FSW.
Preexposure prophylaxis has the potential to substantially reduce new HIV infections in HIV-endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This will necessitate PrEP being made widely available beyond those at highest individual risk and continued integration into a range of national services and at community level to significantly bring down the costs and improve cost-effectiveness.