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Poor adherence to either antiretroviral treatment (ART) or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can promote drug resistance, though this risk is thought to be considerably higher for ART. In the population of men who have sex with men (MSM) in San Francisco, PrEP coverage reached 9.6% in 2014 and has continued to rise. Given the risk of drug resistance and high cost of second-line drugs, the costs and benefits of initiating ART earlier while expanding PrEP coverage remain unclear.
We develop an infection–age-structured mathematical model and fit this model to the annual incidence of AIDS cases and deaths directly, and to resistance and demographic data indirectly. We investigate the impact of six various intervention scenarios (low, medium, or high PrEP coverage, with or without earlier ART) over the next 20 years.
Low (medium, high) PrEP coverage with earlier ART could prevent 22% (42%, 57%) of a projected 44,508 total new infections and 8% (26%, 41%) of a projected 18,426 new drug-resistant infections, and result in a gain of 43,649 (74,048, 103,270) QALYs over 20 years compared to the status quo, at a cost of $4745 ($78,811, $115,320) per QALY gained, respectively.
High PrEP coverage with earlier ART is expected to provide the greatest benefit but also entail the highest costs among the strategies considered. This strategy is cost-effective for the San Francisco MSM population, even considering the acquisition and transmission of ART-mediated drug resistance. However, without a substantial increase to San Francisco’s annual HIV budget, the most advisable strategy may be initiating ART earlier, while maintaining current strategies of PrEP enrollment.