High Burden of Previously Undiagnosed HIV Infections and Gaps in HIV Care Cascade for Conflict-Affected Female Sex Workers in Northern Uganda

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Given the disproportionate HIV burden faced by female sex workers FSWs and limited data regarding their engagement in the HIV cascade of care in conflict-affected settings, we characterized the cascade of care and examined associations with new HIV diagnoses and antiretroviral therapy (ART) use in a community-based cohort of FSWs in conflict-affected Northern Uganda. Data were collected via FSW/peer-led time-location sampling and outreach, interview-administered questionnaires, and voluntary HIV testing. Of 400 FSWs, 33.5% were living with HIV, of whom 33.6% were new/previously undiagnosed infections and 32.8% were on ART. Unstable housing and heavy alcohol/drug use were independently associated with increased odds of new HIV diagnoses, whereas exposure to condom demonstrations and number of lifetime pregnancies were negatively associated. In subanalysis among known HIV-positive women, age and time since diagnosis were associated with ART use, whereas sexually transmitted infections were negatively associated. Findings suggest the need for FSW-tailored, peer-based, and integrated HIV and sexual and reproductive health programs to address gaps in HIV testing and treatment for FSWs in conflict-affected communities.
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