The effectiveness of tenofovir-based pre-exposure prophylaxis for prevention of HIV acquisition among Sub-Saharan African women at high risk: a systematic review



Background Women in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic. In 2019, they constituted 59% of new infections; thus, they remain a key population for control. Public health interventions to prevent acquisition of HIV in this high-risk population are urgently needed. Tenofovir-based pre-exposure prophylaxis (TFV-PrEP) has been shown to reduce HIV infections in other key populations. However, comprehensive evidence regarding TFV-PrEP effectiveness in women living in SSA has not been determined. Therefore, we undertook a systematic review to determine the effectiveness of tenofovir-1% (TFV-1%) vaginal gel, oral tenofovir (TFV) and tenofovir-emtricitabine (TDF-FTC) pre-exposure prophylaxis for primary acquisition of HIV in at-risk women living in SSA.

Methods OVID MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL, Web of Science and Clinical were searched for eligible studies from 01 January 2020 to 31 July 2020. Only randomised controlled trials (RCTs) conducted in women living in SSA were included. Measures of effectiveness (hazard ratios (HR), incidence rate ratios (IRR)) were extracted from individual studies to determine the effectiveness of TFV-PrEP in preventing HIV infection among at-risk women living in SSA.

Results From 2002 non-duplicate articles, four RCTs evaluating the effectiveness of one or more of the interventions against placebos were included. TFV-1% vaginal gel, oral TDF or TDF-FTC were not effective in preventing the acquisition of HIV infection in women living in SSA. However, poor adherence by study participants could have confounded the true effectiveness of TFV-PrEP in this high risk population. Meta-analysis was not conducted given the limited number of eligible studies identified from the search.

Conclusion The current evidence does not support the effectiveness of TFV-PrEP for HIV in SSA women. More studies aimed at addressing factors driving low adherence to HIV interventions in this high risk population are urgently needed in order to improve the design of future RCTs leading to the determination of more reliable estimates of TFV-1% vaginal gel or oral TDF or TDF-FTC effectiveness.

Protocol registration: This systematic review was not registered in PROSPERO.

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