Sexual risk behaviours are influenced by knowing someone with HIV/AIDS

Journal Article


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South African Medical Journal

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Health and Medical Publishing Group


University of Cape Town

Behavioural risk reduction interventions are a central part of continuing efforts to stem the spread of the HIV epidemic. A range of interventions have been developed and tested in different populations within South Africa. These seek to lower individual risk of HIV infection by discouraging sexual relations with multiple partners and increasing levels of condom use. Many interventions to date have met with mixed success, and understanding the determinants of high-risk sexual behaviour remains a major concern in addressing HIV/AIDS.1 Several studies from other parts of sub-Saharan Africa have suggested that knowing someone with HIV/AIDS may be an important predictor of decreased risk behaviour. One pooled analysis2 found that adult men in Kenya, Zambia and Uganda were more likely to reduce their risk behaviours if they knew someone who had HIV/AIDS. Similar results have been reported in a population-based study3 of women in rural Zimbabwe. However, one previous study from South Africa4 using data from the 1998 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) found that there was no association between knowing someone with HIV and levels of condom use. Given that the links between knowing someone with HIV and risk behaviours have important implications for HIV prevention efforts, we investigated this association in a survey of individuals attending a public sector health facility in Khayelitsha, near Cape Town.