Individual HIV Risk versus Population Impact of Risk Compensation after HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis Initiation among Men Who Have Sex with Men
Risk compensation (RC) could reduce or offset the biological prevention benefits of HIV preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among those at substantial risk of infection, including men who have sex with men (MSM). We investigated the potential extent and causal mechanisms through which RC could impact HIV transmission at the population and individual levels.
Using a stochastic network-based mathematical model of HIV transmission dynamics among MSM in the United States, we simulated RC as a reduction in the probability of condom use after initiating PrEP, with heterogeneity by PrEP adherence profiles and partnership type in which RC occurred. Outcomes were changes to population-level HIV incidence and individual-level acquisition risk.
When RC was limited to MSM highly/moderately adherent to PrEP, 100% RC (full replacement of condoms) resulted in a 2% relative decline in incidence compared to no RC, but an 8% relative increase in infection risk for MSM on PrEP. This resulted from confounding by indication: RC increased the number of MSM indicated for PrEP as a function of more condomless anal intercourse among men otherwise not indicated for PrEP; this led to an increased PrEP uptake and subsequent decline in incidence.
RC is unlikely to decrease the prevention impact of PrEP, and in some cases RC may be counterintuitively beneficial at the population level. This depended on PrEP uptake scaling with behavioral indications. Due to the increased acquisition risk associated with RC, however, clinicians should continue to support PrEP as a supplement rather than replacement of condoms.