INFIDELITY AMONG HETEROSEXUAL couples in long-term relationships is one of the main drivers of the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, new research has suggested.
The study published in The Lancet today found that between 30 and 65 per cent of all new HIV infections among men in stable partnerships are caused by one partner being unfaithful. The figure for women was between 10 and 47 per cent.
The authors of the study said that the findings suggest current efforts to prevent the spread of HIV by focusing on couples where one person is HIV positive won’t make any significant difference.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst-affected region in the world for HIV and AIDS infections. The UN estimates that 64 per cent of all people living with HIV live in the region, with an estimated 25 million people infected.
“Because of the large contribution of extra-couple transmission (from outside partnerships) to new HIV infections, interventions should target the larger sexually active population and not just serodiscordant [where one partner is HIV positive] couples,” said Steve Bellan from the University of Texas who led the research.
There has been much debate about the groups which are most at risk in Sub-Saharan Africa and how to intervene with proper prevention strategies.
Commenting on the findings, Connie Celum and Jared Baeten from the University of Washington concurred with Bellan’s findings:
HIV prevention is at a crucial stage: strategies to deliver evidence-based combination prevention efficiently and effectively, targeted at high risk populations and with high coverage for those at risk, will maximise this incredible opportunity in the history of the HIV epidemic.