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Redefining negotiated safety: Gay, bisexual and queer men adapting to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis in intimate relationships(2022) MacGibbon, JamesThesisHIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a recent, yet significant, development in HIV prevention. This mixed-methods research followed PrEP’s introduction in Australia, and examined how gay, bisexual and queer (GBQ) men in relationships have adapted to and incorporated PrEP in their sex practices, relationships, and everyday lives. As PrEP raises the prospect of having condomless sex both within and outside primary relationships without risking HIV infection, this research revisited the concept of negotiated safety (Kippax et al., 1997) to explore how HIV-negative GBQ men practice and negotiate safe sex in the era of biomedical HIV prevention. Quantitative data were collected in two national cross-sectional survey projects, The Gay Community Periodic Surveys (GCPS; 2013–2018) and the PrEPARE Project (2013–2021). The GCPS analysis showed a rapid shift away from relationship agreements in which condomless sex is only sanctioned between regular partners. The PrEPARE Project analysis found that men in relationships who used PrEP were more likely to have spoken and non-monogamous agreements, and to have partners that also used PrEP, compared to men in relationships who did not use PrEP. Qualitative data were generated using semi-structured, in-depth interviews conducted between January and August 2019 with 26 GBQ men in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Thematic analysis of these data identified new shared meanings and social practices that were enabled or mediated by PrEP, with an analytic focus on complexity, situatedness, contingency and relationality. Participant accounts illustrated diverse sexual practices and views about risk, but most participants adopted PrEP due to perceived HIV risk from casual sex rather than sex with their primary partners. PrEP complicated views about what counted as ‘safe sex’ and revealed changing understandings and practices of intimacy, pleasure, trust and risk. There was, however, an enduring narrative of individual responsibility to practice effective HIV prevention. Participants diverged in how they discussed and disclosed sexual practices with their primary and casual partners, revealing tensions about what disclosures were believed to be necessary or expected. Together, these quantitative and qualitative data collected as PrEP use became more common refocus attention on the practicality and complexity of relationship agreements among GBQ men.
Cognitive aging in people living with HIV: concept development and empirical evidence from several longitudinal cohorts in Australia and beyond(2022) Aung, Htein LinnThesisWith widespread access to combination anti-retroviral therapy (cART) and HIV suppression, life expectancy among people living with HIV (PLHIV) is increasing more than ever. According to UNAIDS, there were 8.1 million older PLHIV (i.e., 50 years of age and over) in 2020 globally. Although HIV-associated dementia has become rare in the cART era, mild neurocognitive impairments remain prevalent among PLHIV (~30% in virally suppressed). With aging, there is an increasing concern that HIV may precipitate neurocognitive abnormal aging because HIV is associated with increased markers of aging (e.g., immunosenescence and hyper-coagulopathy) and multiple age and HIV-related comorbidities (e.g., cardiovascular diseases). Importantly, these comorbidities occur at an earlier age and at a higher rate among PLHIV compared to age-matched HIV-negative persons. Earlier, more severe and more rapidly progressing neurocognitive impairment would have major public health consequences for the millions of PLHIV and the healthcare system. The overarching aim of this PhD thesis is to determine whether having chronic stable HIV infection and suppressive ART is associated with abnormal cognitive aging including premature cognitive aging (HIV and age synergistically/addictively lead to much lower cognitive performance at a younger age compared to controls), accentuated cognitive aging (HIV and age synergistically/addictively lead to much greater prevalence and severity of neurocognitive impairment), and/or accelerated cognitive aging (HIV and age synergistically/ addictively lead to much more rapid progression of neurocognitive impairment). To address these questions, we used a range of scientific methodologies including a systematic review, and several types of advanced statistical analyses using national and international longitudinal cohort data. First, to contextualise the potential public health consequences of cognitive aging in PLHIV, we conducted a narrative review of the burden of established dementia risk factors among PLHIV. We identified that the burden of several major dementia risk factors is much greater among PLHIV than in the general population. Second, we conducted the first-ever systematic review evaluating the current evidence for premature, accentuated and accelerated cognitive aging among PLHIV. We determined moderate evidence for premature cognitive aging and strong evidence for accelerated cognitive aging, while accentuated cognitive aging had not been optimally assessed. Lastly, addressing the previous literature major limitations (low sample size, cross-sectional study design, low proportion of older PLHIV, and inadequate controls/norms), we quantified the profiles of cognitive aging in four longitudinal studies of PLHIV. We demonstrated robust trends for premature cognitive aging among PLHIV compared to age-matched HIV-negative persons. We also demonstrated that older PLHIV had a higher risk for both neurocognitive impairment and neurocognitive decline compared to younger PLHIV, while controlling for normative age effect. These results are indicative of both accentuated and accelerated aging, although our research identified the need for longer-term studies using very large sample size to assess these trends especially in PLHIV older than 70+. Based on these findings, we discussed implications for clinical practice and future research directions.
(2022) Smith, AnthonyThesisHIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a highly effective strategy for preventing new HIV infections. Since 2015, PrEP has been rapidly implemented with gay and bisexual men in Australia. While there is recognition of the importance of optimising the clinical delivery of PrEP, there has been scarce empirical research in Australia documenting how clinicians engage with prescribing PrEP, and minimal international social science research considering how PrEP has (re)shaped clinical practice. In this thesis I explore the role of clinicians in delivering PrEP in Australia. Drawing on the sociology of prescribing, I approach PrEP prescribing as a social practice, and attend to how clinicians anticipate and imagine patients, and how they think and feel about PrEP. This study draws on qualitative methodologies, including findings from semi-structured interviews conducted with clinicians who provide PrEP in New South Wales and Western Australia between 2019 and 2020, and with HIV expert stakeholders across Australia in 2017. Through empirical findings, I consider debates about which types of clinicians are best suited to prescribing PrEP and workforce challenges for providing PrEP in different clinical settings. I analyse clinician imaginaries of PrEP users and broader patient collectives, as well as clinicians’ views on providing PrEP to alleviate different types of ‘HIV anxiety’. I also examine prescribing as an affective clinical practice. I identify recommendations for supporting clinical workforces to improve the implementation of PrEP across Australian communities. This thesis demonstrates how PrEP has transformed HIV prevention for clinicians, requiring them to adapt to new ways of approaching HIV and sexual health. Clinicians develop expertise through routine opportunities to prescribe, and they develop imaginaries about patients and communities through consultations that shape their future interactions with patients. Conversely, a lack of patient demand makes it challenging for general practitioners to develop confidence and competence with PrEP prescribing. Providing PrEP involves the complexity of discussing sex and managing ideas about risk and responsibility, which are persistent challenges for both HIV-experienced and inexperienced clinicians. I argue for the value of sociological perspectives on clinical workforces to support and sustain effective HIV prevention.
(2023) Sazzad, HossainThesisPrisons are a hotspot for blood-borne virus transmission. To control outbreaks of these infections, it is essential to have an in-depth understanding of risk behaviours of inmates and the impact of existing control measures, and also to apply sensitive methods for detection of new infections occurring within prisons. This thesis describes studies in these three domains to understand the spread of hepatitis C infection in the prisons in New South Wales (NSW). The clinical data and blood samples for this work originated from two prospective studies conducted in the NSW prisons: the Hepatitis C Incidence and Transmission Study in prisons (HITS-p) (2005- 2014; n=590) and the Surveillance and Treatment of Prisoners with Hepatitis C (SToP-C) (2015-2019; n=3691). The first study identified a high rate of incident infections in an at-risk cohort and documented outcomes (spontaneous clearance, chronic infection, and re-infection or superinfection), while the second study demonstrated the impact of scale up of direct acting antiviral (DAA) treatment in reducing incidence – that is treatment as prevention. The first project utilised qualitative data obtained from audiotaped interviews with inmates in the HITS-p study to understand contexts and concerns regarding violence and HCV transmission in prison. Concerns regarding violence were identified at the individual level during blood contact; triggering factors such as drug debt were identified at the network level; racial influence at the community level; and legislation such as delayed parole for violence impacted at the policy level. For the subsequent projects near-full length HCV genomes for genotypes 1a and 3a cases from both cohorts were sequenced with Oxford Nanopore Technology (ONT) using previously published protocols. A total of 211 genotype 1a sequences and 282 genotype 3a sequences were generated. Of these, 28 1a and 63 3a sequences were from samples collected within 6 months of the estimated date of infection and are hence referred to as acute infection sequences. Acute infection sequences from samples collected during 2005 – 2015 (the pre-DAA era) and 2016-2019 (the post-DAA era) were used to model the temporal evolution in the size of infected population using previously published Bayesian evolutionary analysis methods. The effective population size modelled with the genotype 3a infection samples, demonstrated a 21% reduction in the size of infected population in 2019 compared to 2014. By contrast, the trend in the genotype 1a samples was static. The SToP-C sequences (from both acute and chronically infected subjects) were used to identify molecularly related infections (clusters), before within-host viral variants were further characterised within these clusters to identify likely direct transmission events (defined as phylogenetic intermingling of within-host variants between two or more subjects). For genotype 1a, there were 131 sequences which formed 51 clusters, and for genotype 3a, 140 sequences formed 61 clusters. Each cluster had 2-4 sequences. Among these, 41 genotype 1a and 39 genotype 3a clusters were analysed for minor variants. Evidence of a direct transmission of a within-host variant was observed in only one cluster. Subjects in 45 (40%) clusters were from the same prison providing preliminary epidemiological support for the transmissions. These studies highlight the high-risk context for HCV transmissions in the prison setting, and the utility of molecular epidemiological tools for surveillance in this closed setting.
Understanding HIV risk and engagement with harm reduction and HIV services: the lived experiences of women and men who inject drugs in Jakarta, Indonesia(2022) Sudewo, AninditaThesisIn recent years, major changes have affected the national response to HIV with people who inject drugs in Indonesia. These include changes in international HIV funding, the dissolution of the National AIDS commission, and a “war on drugs” declared by the Indonesian president in 2015. Set in this national context, this thesis examines the production of HIV risk for men and women who inject drugs in Indonesia; the factors that influence their engagement in harm reduction and HIV testing, treatment and care services; and the everyday strategies and actions instigated by people who inject drugs to enhance health and wellbeing. This study adopted a qualitative study design, and involved in-depth interviews with 36 men and women who inject drugs, and 10 key informants in community-based organisations (CBOs) and government health services. Key findings pertain to the production of HIV risk for people who inject drugs within micro-level social and physical spaces, influenced by macro-level stigmatising community values and criminalising policies; socio-ecological influences that inhibit their engagement in harm reduction and HIV services, including insular lifestyles associated with drug use and stigmatisation within interpersonal relationships with families and friends; the loss of critical community-based support services; and the shift of HIV care to formal government health services perceived as unsafe, with operations constrained by national policies. Yet, people who inject drugs also demonstrate a range of strategies – with support of people in injecting networks, families, CBOs and health services – that enable them to navigate and negotiate restrictive social, physical and policy environments to seek health and wellbeing. This thesis contributes to an emerging scholarship in social science approaches to public health in Indonesia. It draws on an analytic framework that recognises the interpersonal, institutional and contextual influences on people’s health and wellbeing, as well as the important action that HIV affected communities take to enhance their own lives in challenging contexts. The conclusions argue for the adoption of HIV and harm reduction practices and policies that cater to the complex lives of people who use drugs, and help overcome their everyday experiences of criminalisation and stigmatisation that produce risk and inhibit engagement in appropriate support services.
Changes to the perception of HIV prevention strategies, risks, and norms during rapid PrEP uptake among gay and bisexual men in Australia(2023) Kolstee, JohannThesisMen who have sex with men still comprise most new HIV cases in Australia. Condoms were the main HIV risk reduction strategy used for most of the HIV epidemic. Over the past decade, gay and bisexual men (GBM) have adopted a range of HIV risk reduction strategies, including PrEP. These changes have shifted HIV prevention norms in place for decades. In this thesis, I set out to understand how these changes affected how GBM negotiated sex and HIV risk, with a particular focus on GBM who struggle to use an effective HIV prevention method, despite the broader range available. A community-based, social public health approach was taken, with a focus on understanding the impact of PrEP practices and recommendations to improve health promotion. National survey data were analysed on changing attitudes to condoms among GBM. Cohort study data were used to identify the characteristics of GBM who did not consistently use HIV risk reduction strategies. Qualitative interviews were undertaken with GBM in Sydney to explore why some do not use a HIV risk reduction strategy and changing practices of HIV and PrEP disclosure. The survey data found consistently negative attitudes towards condoms among GBM and that it had become harder to discuss condom use with partners as PrEP use increased. Men who did not consistently use any HIV prevention strategy were younger, less educated, preferred receptive anal intercourse, and were less socially engaged with GBM. In qualitative analysis, the characteristics of encounters that featured little or no HIV risk reduction included: familiarity and trusting partners; pleasure and intoxication; expectations that partners were using PrEP or HIV treatment as prevention; and sometimes feelings of inevitability about acquiring HIV. In the context of increasing PrEP use, clear expectations about HIV and PrEP disclosure had not yet emerged, with some GBM only disclosing online and others not at all. The rapid uptake of PrEP has changed the way that GBM negotiate sex and HIV risk. As condoms have become harder to discuss with partners and no clear norms about PrEP disclosure have yet emerged, negotiating risk has become more complicated. GBM not using any HIV risk reduction strategy should be supported to adopt one compatible with situations in which they experience risk. This is important to increase community knowledge about effective HIV prevention strategies and support GBM to negotiate sex when there are no clear norms or expectations about disclosure.