HIV treatment coverage among key populations low in Cameroon
Antiretroviral treatment (ART) coverage among men who have sex with men (MSM) and female sex workers (FSW) in Cameroon is extremely low. Only 25 percent of MSM living with HIV are on treatment, and 16 percent of FSWs living with HIV are on treatment – as absolute best estimates. The results come from a study released in this month’s Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS), in a supplement that focuses on the HIV response in West and Central Africa.
Whilst the epidemic is slowing down among the general population across many parts of the world, there is evidence of sustained increases in HIV prevalence among key populations – notably MSM and FSWs. In Cameroon, HIV prevalence stands at 4.5 percent among people of a reproductive age (15-49), however, recent studies show that HIV prevalence is 37 percent among MSM and FSW populations in the country.
The researchers measured ART coverage among MSM and FSWs by calculating population size estimations, HIV health service mapping, service access among these key populations, and conducting qualitative research at each of the service provider sites. ART coverage was extremely variable, with coverage ranging between zero and 25 percent for MSM and FSWs. ART provision to the general population living with HIV was 56.5 percent, with only 13.2 percent of ART being provided to FSW and MSM populations only, who are affected by the highest HIV prevalence.
In key affected populations where HIV incidence and prevalence is high, there is an increased risk of HIV transmission within these groups and their sexual networks specifically. In order to prevent HIV among these groups, estimating population sizes and service provider gaps is vital – but stigma and discrimination often drive these populations away from health services, or if they do come, they may be unwilling to disclose information relating to their sexual activities. Developing effective strategies to improve treatment access and viral suppression among these groups is therefore vital to curbing HIV in Cameroon.