HIV Care Continuum Among Men Who Have Sex With Men and Persons Who Inject Drugs in India: Barriers to Successful Engagement

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Background. We characterize the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) care continuum for men who have sex with men (MSM) and persons who inject drugs (PWID) across India.

Methods. We recruited 12 022 MSM and 14 481 PWID across 26 Indian cities, using respondent-driven sampling (September 2012 to December 2013). Participants were aged ≥18 years and either self-identified as male and reported sex with a man in the prior year (MSM) or reported injection drug use in the prior 2 years (PWID). Correlates of awareness of HIV-positive status were characterized using multilevel logistic regression.

Results. A total of 1146 MSM were HIV infected, of whom a median of 30% were aware of their HIV-positive status, 23% were linked to care, 22% were retained before antiretroviral therapy (ART), 16% had started ART, 16% were currently receiving ART, and 10% had suppressed viral loads. There was site variability (awareness range, 0%–90%; suppressed viral load range, 0%–58%). A total of 2906 PWID were HIV infected, of whom a median of 41% were aware, 36% were linked to care, 31% were retained before ART, 20% had started ART, 18% were currently receiving ART, and 15% had suppressed viral loads. Similar site variability was observed (awareness range: 2%–93%; suppressed viral load range: 0%–47%). Factors significantly associated with awareness were region, older age, being married (MSM) or female (PWID), use of other services (PWID), more lifetime sexual partners (MSM), and needle sharing (PWID). Ongoing injection drug use (PWID) and alcohol use (MSM) were associated with lower awareness.

Conclusions. In this large sample, the major barrier to HIV care engagement was awareness of HIV-positive status. Efforts should focus on linking HIV testing to other essential services.

Clinical Trials Registration. NCT01686750.

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