BACKGROUND: Avahan, the India AIDS Initiative has been a partner supporting targeted interventions of high risk populations under India's National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) since 2004 in the state of Maharashtra. This paper presents an assessment of the Avahan program among female sex workers (FSWs) in Maharashtra, its coverage, outcomes achieved and their association with Avahan program.
METHODS: An analytical framework based on the Avahan evaluation design was used, addressing assessment questions on program implementation, intermediate outcomes and association of outcomes with Avahan. Data from routine program monitoring, two rounds of cross-sectional Integrated Behavioural and Biological Assessments (IBBAs) conducted in 2006 (Round 1- R1) and 2009 (Round 2 - R2) and quality assessments of program clinics were used. Bi-variate and multivariate analysis were conducted using the complex samples module in SPSS 15 (IBM, Somers NY).
RESULTS: The Avahan program achieved coverage of over 66% of FSWs within four years of implementation. The IBBA data showed increased contact by peers in R2 compared to R1 (AOR:2.34; p=0.001). Reported condom use with clients increased in R2 and number of FSWs reporting zero unprotected sex acts increased from 76.2% (R1) to 94.6% (R2) [AOR: 5.1, p=0.001].Significant declines were observed in prevalence of syphilis (RPR) (15.8% to 10.8%; AOR:0.54; p=0.001), chlamydia (8% to 6.2%; AOR:.0.65; p=0.010) and gonorrohoea (7.4% to 3.9; AOR:.0.60; p=0.026) between R1 and R2. HIV prevalence increased (25.8% to 27.5%; AOR:1.29; p=0.04). District-wise analysis showed decline in three districts and increase in Mumbai and Thane districts.FSWs exposed to Avahan had higher consistent condom use with occasional (94.3% vs. 90.6%; AOR: 1.55; p=0.04) and regular clients (92.5% vs. 86.0%; AOR: 1.95, p=0.001) compared to FSWs unexposed to Avahan. Decline in high titre syphilis was associated with Avahan exposure.
CONCLUSION: The Avahan program was scaled up and achieved high coverage of FSWs in Maharashtra amidst multiple intervention players. Avahan coverage of FSWs was associated with improved safe sexual practices and declines in STIs. Prevalence of HIV increased requiring more detailed understanding of the data and, if confirmed, new approaches for HIV control.
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