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Background Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is highly effective in the prevention of HIV acquisition, particularly for men who have sex with men (MSM). Questions remain on the benefits of PrEP and implementation strategies for those at occupational risk of HIV acquisition in sex work, as well as on methods to support adherence among young people who initiate PrEP. Objective The Combination Prevention Effectiveness study for young cisgender MSM and transgender women (TGW) aims to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a combination intervention among HIV-uninfected young MSM and TGW engaged in sex work in Thailand. Methods This open-label, nonrandomized assessment compares the relative effectiveness of a combination prevention intervention with and without daily oral emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Truvada) PrEP with SMS-based adherence support. HIV-uninfected young MSM and TGW aged 18 to 26 years in Bangkok and Pattaya who self-report selling/exchanging sex at least once in the previous 12 months are recruited by convenience sampling and peer referral and are eligible regardless of their intent to initiate PrEP. At baseline, participants complete a standard assessment for PrEP eligibility and may initiate PrEP then or at any time during study participation. All participants complete a survey and HIV testing at baseline and every 3 months. Participants who initiate PrEP complete monthly pill pickups and may opt-in to SMS reminders. All participants are sent brief weekly SMS surveys to assess behavior with additional adherence questions for those who initiated PrEP. Adherence is defined as use of 4 or more pills within the last 7 days. The analytic plan uses a person-time approach to assess HIV incidence, comparing participant time on oral PrEP to participant time off oral PrEP for 12 to 24 months of follow-up, using a propensity score to control for confounders. Enrollment is based on the goal of observing 620 person-years (PY) on PrEP and 620 PY off PrEP. Results As of February 2019, 445 participants (417 MSM and 28 TGW) have contributed approximately 168 PY with 95% (73/77) retention at 12 months. 74.2% (330/445) of enrolled participants initiated PrEP at baseline, contributing to 134 PY of PrEP adherence, 1 PY nonadherence, and 33 PY PrEP nonuse/noninitiation. Some social harms, predominantly related to unintentional participant disclosure of PrEP use and peer stigmatization of PrEP and HIV, have been identified. Conclusions The majority of cisgender MSM and TGW who exchange sex and participate in this study are interested in PrEP, report taking sufficient PrEP, and stay on PrEP, though additional efforts are needed to address community misinformation and stigma. This novel multilevel, open-label study design and person-time approach will allow evaluation of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of combination prevention intervention in the contexts of both organized sex work and exchanged sex. International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID) RR1-10.2196/15354

Original publication




Journal article


JMIR Research Protocols


JMIR Publications Inc.

Publication Date





e15354 - e15354