December 7, 2022
New research published in the journal PLOS today from AVAC and COMPASS partners shows the importance and value of an enabling policy environment to increase the uptake of HIV prevention services, including for PrEP.
Using data from 194 countries gathered by the HIV Policy Lab and AVAC’s Global PrEP Tracker, the team analyzed the impact of a series of policies: broad PrEP eligibility, HIV self-testing, and lowered age of consent to HIV testing and treatment services. Each was found to be correlated with increased PrEP uptake. The results show:
● A significant and positive correlation between countries authorizing HIV self-testing and cumulative number of PrEP initiations in-country.
● A significant and positive correlation between countries authorizing lowered age of consent to HIV testing and treatment and cumulative number of PrEP initiations.
● Similarly, and not surprisingly, policies authorizing broad PrEP eligibility also show significant and positive correlations with PrEP uptake.
These findings suggest that HIV self-testing is a vital step towards increasing access to PrEP, and support existing evidence that HIV self-testing serves as a gateway to PrEP uptake. They also suggest that young people may be motivated to access PrEP and that countries with policies that expand PrEP eligibility may see a strong benefit, with greater adoption of PrEP by people who need it. With these findings in mind, it’s vital to remember that inequities in PrEP access across populations and settings, based on complex social factors such as stigma and discrimination, can begin to be addressed by enabling policies, but require comprehensive strategies that build on that environment. The right policies cannot do the job alone. Community leadership in every aspect of the HIV response from local to national and to international levels is needed.