Background HIV Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the use of antiretroviral drugs by those HIV uninfected individuals to prevent HIV infection, recently demonstrated effectiveness in preventing acquisition in a high risk population of men who have sex with men (MSM). There is a need to understand if and how PrEP can be used cost-effectively. This study examines the programmatic implications of the iPrEX study: the only randomised controlled trial of PrEP among men who have sex with men (MSM) published last December in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Methods We developed a mathematical model representing the HIV epidemic among Men who Have Sex with Men (MSM) and transgender people in Lima, Peru as a test-case. It considers differential infectiousness by stage, including the impact of antiretroviral treatment and different sexual practices, such as partnerships type and sexual positioning. The model was used to investigate the population-level impact, cost, and cost-effectiveness of PrEP under a range of implementation scenarios, and to develop possible strategies by which PrEP could be implemented.
Results The epidemiological impact of PrEP is largely driven by programme characteristics—coverage, prioritisation strategy and time to scale up—as well as individual's adherence behaviour. If PrEP is prioritised to key groups, it could be a cost-effective way to avert infection and save lives (up to 8% less new infections with 5% coverage). Across all our scenarios the estimated highest cost per DALY gained (US$$2755) is below the WHO recommended threshold for cost-effective interventions for the region (<US$$4608/DALY gained) see Abstract LBO-1.2 Figure 1. The impact of PrEP is reduced if those on PrEP decrease condom use, especially if the program has low coverage; but only extreme behaviour changes and a low PrEP efficacy would adversely impact the epidemic overall. However, PrEP will not arrest HIV transmission in isolation, due to its incomplete effectiveness, dependence on adherence, and the high total cost of programmes limiting attainable coverage levels.
Conclusions This study quantifies the epidemic and financial implications of different programmatic scenarios. While the implementation of a strategic PrEP intervention has potentially important financial implications (a substantial expenditure would likely be required to generate significant reductions in incidence), PrEP among vulnerable populations could be a cost-effective option comparable to currently available interventions for Men who Have Sex with Men (MSM) populations.