INTRODUCTION: Viral load is one of the most important determinants for HIV transmission. Identification of people with high viral load (PHVL) can be effective in limiting onward HIV transmission. In order to improve the identification of these individuals within risk networks, we determined a) the number of PHVL recruited through risk networks b) their socio-demographic, behavioural and clinical characteristics and c) the characteristics of individuals who referred these PHVL to the study.
METHODOLOGY: From November 2013 to March 2016, in Odessa, Ukraine, Transmission Reduction Intervention Project (TRIP) was implemented to identify people recently infected with HIV within the risk networks of “seeds” and “venues” where they engaged in risk behaviour.
RESULTS: TRIP identified 53 PHVL, of whom 32 (60%) injected drugs; 42 (79%) were unaware of their HIV status; 25 (47%) had more than one sex partner, and only 14 (26%) were using condoms. There were 164 people who referred individuals into the study; 33 of them (20%) referred PHVL. In terms of referrers, those with lower than secondary level of education, not living with a sex partner, and reporting regular condom use were significantly more likely (p < 0.05) to refer PHVL. Most PHVL (38, 72%) and their referrers (27, 82%) were found through venues.
CONCLUSIONS: In Odessa city, PHVL are at high risk of transmitting HIV as the majority inject drugs, do not know their HIV status, and have unprotected sex and/or multiple partners. Targeting these individuals for HIV prevention, harm reduction and initiation of antiretroviral treatment (ART) is urgent.
People with high HIV viral load within risk networks: Who are these people and who refers them best?
Journal of Infection in Developing Countries, 13 (7S), 103S-110S. doi: 10.3855/jidc.11273. PMCID: PMC6779172.