To map the characteristics of rural based sex workers in Zimbabwe with regard to demographics, mobility, behavior, HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevalence, to explore the appropriateness and feasibility of presumptive periodic treatment (PPT) for bacterial STIs as an HIV prevention intervention among these women, and to compare tolerability of 2 PPT regimens (1 g of azithromycin and 2 g of metronidazole+/-500 mg of ciprofloxacin). Five commercial farms and 2 mines in Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe. Three hundred sixty-three sex workers were recruited and completed a structured interviewer-administered questionnaire. Each participant had blood tested for antibody to HIV, herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), and syphilis; urine tested for Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG); and a vaginal swab tested for Trichomonas vaginalis (TV). Women were randomly assigned to receive a single dose of 1 of 2 PPT regimens and then followed to assess rates of side effects and reinfection. The overall prevalence of antibody to HIV was 55.7% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 50.6-60.9) and that of HSV-2 was 80.8% (95% CI: 76.7-84.9). The prevalence of CT and NG was low (CT=1.7%, 95% CI: 0.3-3.0); (NG=1.9%, 95% CI: 0.5-3.4), with a much higher prevalence of TV (TV=19.3%, 95% CI: 15.2-23.4). Prevalence of CT, NG, and TV was appreciably reduced 1 month after PPT but rose to pretreatment levels at the 2- and 3-month visits. The rate of moderate or severe side effects after PPT was low, but it was higher in the women who received ciprofloxacin in addition to azithromycin and metronidazole (P=0.007). It was feasible to access women who reported exchanging money or gifts for sex in rural communities, although many of these women engaged in sex work only infrequently. The prevalence of bacterial STIs was low, suggesting that PPT may not be an appropriate intervention in this setting. Rapid reinfection after PPT suggests that this needs to be given at monthly intervals to reduce prevalence of STIs.
Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (2005) 38 (2), pp. 202-207. [DOI:10.1097/00126334-200502010-00012]