Population prevalence of antiretroviral therapy sharing and its association with HIV viremia in rural Uganda: a cross-sectional population-based study

Caitlin E. Kennedy, Xinyi Feng, Robert Ssekubugu, Joseph G. Rosen, Joseph Ssekasanvu, Godfrey Kigozi, David Serwadda, Ping Teresa Yeh, Joseph Kagaayi, Thomas C. Quinn, Aaron A.R. Tobian, Maria J. Wawer, Steven J. Reynolds, Larry W. Chang, M. Kate Grabowski, Fred Nalugoda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Antiretroviral treatment (ART) sharing has been reported among fishermen and sex workers in Uganda and South Africa. However, no population-based studies have documented ART diversion prevalence (including sharing [giving/receiving], buying and selling) or its relationship with viremia among men and women living with HIV in Africa. Methods: In 2018–2020, we surveyed people living with HIV aged 15–49 years in 41 communities in the Rakai Community Cohort Study, a population-based cohort in south-central Uganda. We assessed the prevalence and correlates of self-reported lifetime and past-year ART diversion, stratifying by age and gender and documenting sources of diverted drugs. We used log-binomial regression to quantify the relationship between diversion patterns and viremia (viral load >40 copies/ml), reported as unadjusted and adjusted prevalence ratios (aPR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI). Results: Of 2852 people living with HIV and self-reporting current ART use, 266 (9.3%) reported lifetime ART diversion. Giving/receiving drugs were most common; few participants reported buying, and none reported selling. Men (12.9%) were more likely to report lifetime diversion than women (7.4%), with men aged 25–34 reporting high levels of sharing (18.9%). Friends were the most common sources of shared drugs, followed by spouses/sexual partners. Patterns of lifetime and past-year diversion were similar. Among participants with viral load results, 8.6% were viraemic. In adjusted analyses, people who reported only giving ART were nearly twice as likely to be viraemic than those who reported no diversion (aPR: 1.94, 95% CI: 1.10−3.44), and those reporting only receiving ART were less likely to exhibit viremia (aPR: 0.46, 95% CI: 0.12−1.79), although the latter was not statistically significant. Reporting both giving and receiving ART was not associated with viremia (aPR: 0.79, 95% CI: 0.43−1.46). Reporting buying ART, though rare, was also correlated with higher rates of viremia, but this relationship was not statistically significant (aPR: 1.98, 95% CI: 0.72−5.45). Conclusions: ART sharing is common among persons reporting ART use in rural Uganda, particularly among men. Sharing ART was associated with viremia, and receiving ART may facilitate viral suppression. HIV programmes may benefit from considering ART sharing in counselling messages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere26135
JournalJournal of the International AIDS Society
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • ART division
  • ART sharing
  • HIV adherence
  • HIV care continuum
  • Uganda
  • viremia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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