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DOI: 10.1101/2023.03.16.23287351

Growing gender disparity in HIV infection in Africa: sources and policy implications

M.Monod A. Brizzi R. M. Galiwango ...+33 PANGEA-HIV consortium
HIV incidence in eastern and southern Africa has historically been concentrated among girls and women aged 15-24 years, but as new cases decline with HIV interventions, population-level infection dynamics may shift by age and gender. Here, we integrated population-based surveillance and longitudinal deepsequence viral phylogenetics to assess how HIV incidence and the population groups driving transmission have evolved over a 15 year period from 2003 to 2018 in Uganda. HIV viral suppression increased more rapidly in women than men, resulting in 1.5-2 fold higher suppression rates in women with HIV by 2018 across age groups. Incidence declined more slowly in women than men, increasing pre-existing gender imbalance in HIV burden. Age-specific transmission flows shifted; the share of transmission to girls and women aged 15-24 years from older men declined by approximately one third, whereas the contribution of transmission to women aged 25-34 years from men aged 0-6 years older doubled from 2003 to 2018. We estimated closing the gender gap in viral suppression could have reduced HIV incidence in women by half in 2018 and ended gender disparities in incidence. This study suggests that male-targeted HIV programs to increase HIV suppression are critical to reduce incidence in women, close gender gaps in infection burden and improve men's health in Africa.