Decline in sexually transmitted infection prevalence and HIV incidence in female barworkers attending prevention and care services in Mbeya Region, Tanzania

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Objective:To assess trends in sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevalence and HIV incidence and associated factors in a cohort of female barworkers exposed to behavioural interventions and STI screening and treatment.Methods:An open cohort of 600 female barworkers in Mbeya Region, Tanzania was offered 3-monthly information and education sessions on HIV/STI and reproductive health, voluntary HIV counselling and testing and clinical health check-ups including STI syndromic management with simple STI laboratory support. Outcome assessments included HIV, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) and syphilis serology, polymerase chain reaction for Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis and ulcerative STI, microscopy for Trichomonas vaginalis, Candida albicans and bacterial vaginosis and interviews on sociodemographic and behavioural characteristics.Results:Over a period of 30 months 600 barworkers were enrolled at the baseline examination round and 153 thereafter as replacements for losses to follow-up. At 3-monthly examinations the prevalence of gonorrhoea declined steadily from 22.2 to 6.8% (odds ratio for trend per quarter: 0.81; P < 0.001). The prevalence of all other STI/RTI, except for genital herpes and bacterial vaginosis, also decreased significantly. HIV incidence declined from 13.9/100 to 5.0/100 person-years over three consecutive 9-month periods. HIV incidence was significantly associated with genital ulcers and positive syphilis serology, but not with genital herpes or HSV-2 seropositivity.Conclusion:A relatively simple intervention consisting of regular 3-monthly STI screening and syndromic management in combination with HIV/STI information and counselling sessions was well accepted and effective in reducing STI among barworkers. Such interventions should be implemented more widely in high-risk environments in sub-Saharan Africa.

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