HIV prevention: discrepancies in what one partner knows about the other’s risk
According to a CAPRISA-led study, there is a need to understand the sexual behaviours of partners, the characteristics of the relationships and the information used to make sexual decisions to prevent HIV infections.
The study, Exploring discrepant knowledge of partner sexual behaviour to inform self-risk assessment in a high HIV burdened district in rural KwaZulu-Natal, published recently in the journal, Global Public Health, explored the sexual behaviour and relationships of young females and their primary sexual partners in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Purposive sampling was used to select 18–27-year-old sexually active women. Consenting female participants completed a structured and semi-structured interview while consenting male sexual partners identified through the female participant completed a structured questionnaire on sexual health information. Using a reflexive inductive approach and thematic analysis, we identified key discrepancies in the assumptions partners make about each other’s sexual health.
Among the 23 sexual dyads analysed, four key discrepancies were identified: age, HIV status, lack of awareness of concurrent relationships, and overall knowledge of the partner’s sexual health behaviours and relationship status. Female and male partners over-, or under-estimated their partner's age, were unaware or incorrectly assumed their partner’s HIV status, and made assumptions about relational fidelity and status.
Decisions about sexual health were mediated by relationship length, relationship status, relational value, power, and perceived fidelity. Sexual health decisions were often made concerning the impact it would have on the relationships. HIV prevention should focus on the relationship and the individual, to better respond to the real situations in which HIV risk occurs. Sex-positive and egalitarian sexual health interventions that target the individual, as well as the sexual relationship, are needed.
- Hilton Humphries
For further reading see:
Humphries H et al. Exploring discrepant knowledge of partner sexual behaviour to inform self-risk assessment in a high HIV burdened district in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Global Public Health. 2021:1-16. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2021.1969672. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34488554/