Continued high HIV-1 incidence in a vaccine trial preparatory cohort of injection drug users in Bangkok, Thailand


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Abstract

BackgroundA large epidemic of HIV-1 subtype B began among injection drug users (IDUs) in Bangkok in 1988. Despite ongoing prevention efforts, HIV-1 prevalence among IDUs remained at 30–50% through the 1990s.ObjectivesTo measure the incidence of HIV-1 infection and related risk factors to guide prevention efforts and to evaluate the feasibility of conducting an HIV vaccine efficacy trial.Design and methodsA prospective cohort study in which IDUs attending methadone treatment programs in Bangkok were screened during 1995–1996 for enrollment into the study. IDUs found to be HIV-seronegative on two occasions were offered enrollment with follow-up visits every 4 months. On each visit participants were evaluated with a questionnaire and serologic testing.ResultsA total of 1209 HIV-negative IDUs were enrolled. Through the end of 1998, the overall HIV-1 incidence rate was 5.8 (95% confidence interval, 4.8–6.8) per 100 person–years of follow-up. HIV-1 subtypes E and B accounted for 79 and 21% of infections, respectively. On multivariate analysis, HIV-1 seroconversion was primarily associated with the frequency of heroin injection, the sharing of injection equipment, and incarceration, especially with drug injection. Sexual behavior was not associated with increased risk for HIV-1. Risk factors for infection with HIV-1 subtypes E and B were similar.ConclusionHIV-1 transmission risk remains high among Bangkok IDUs despite methadone treatment and other current prevention strategies. There is an urgent need to address this ongoing epidemic, especially in jails and prisons. This study led to the initiation in 1999 of a phase III HIV-1 vaccine efficacy trial in this population.

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