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Population sizes, HIV prevalence, and HIV prevention among men who paid for sex in sub-Saharan Africa (2000–2020): A meta-analysis of 87 population-based surveys
Authors: Caroline Hodgins, James Stannah, Salome Kuchukhidze, Lycias Zembe, Jeffrey W. Eaton, Marie-Claude Boily,Mathieu Maheu-Giroux
Source: PLOS Medicine, DOI:
Topic(s): HIV testing
Men's health
Paid sex
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: JAN 2022
Abstract: Background: Key populations, including sex workers, are at high risk of HIV acquisition and transmission. Men who pay for sex can contribute to HIV transmission through sexual relationships with both sex workers and their other partners. To characterize the population of men who pay for sex in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), we analyzed population size, HIV prevalence, and use of HIV prevention and treatment. Methods and findings: We performed random-effects meta-analyses of population-based surveys conducted in SSA from 2000 to 2020 with information on paid sex by men. We extracted population size, lifetime number of sexual partners, condom use, HIV prevalence, HIV testing, antiretroviral (ARV) use, and viral load suppression (VLS) among sexually active men. We pooled by regions and time periods, and assessed time trends using meta-regressions. We included 87 surveys, totaling over 368,000 male respondents (15–54 years old), from 35 countries representing 95% of men in SSA. Eight percent (95% CI 6%–10%; number of surveys [Ns] = 87) of sexually active men reported ever paying for sex. Condom use at last paid sex increased over time and was 68% (95% CI 64%–71%; Ns = 61) in surveys conducted from 2010 onwards. Men who paid for sex had higher HIV prevalence (prevalence ratio [PR] = 1.50; 95% CI 1.31–1.72; Ns = 52) and were more likely to have ever tested for HIV (PR = 1.14; 95% CI 1.06–1.24; Ns = 81) than men who had not paid for sex. Men living with HIV who paid for sex had similar levels of lifetime HIV testing (PR = 0.96; 95% CI 0.88–1.05; Ns = 18), ARV use (PR = 1.01; 95% CI 0.86–1.18; Ns = 8), and VLS (PR = 1.00; 95% CI 0.86–1.17; Ns = 9) as those living with HIV who did not pay for sex. Study limitations include a reliance on self-report of sensitive behaviors and the small number of surveys with information on ARV use and VLS. Conclusions: Paying for sex is prevalent, and men who ever paid for sex were 50% more likely to be living with HIV compared to other men in these 35 countries. Further prevention efforts are needed for this vulnerable population, including improved access to HIV testing and condom use initiatives. Men who pay for sex should be recognized as a priority population for HIV prevention.