HIV transmission within marriage (Zambia, Rwanda)
According to a report released last week, “In urban Zambia and Rwanda, heterosexual HIV transmission in both men and women takes place within marriage or cohabitation. … As a result, public policy should promote couples’ testing and counseling as well as other evidenced-based interventions.”
A team of American, Zambian, and Rwandan researchers found that in the areas they studied “55% to 93% of new HIV cases among heterosexuals occur within couples who are married or living together,” according to this article from the Kaiser Network. These figures suggest the extent of the risk of HIV transmission in serodiscordant couples (that is, couples in which one partner is HIV+ and the other is HIV-).
According to this article from Medical News Today, the researchers concluded their report with a call for new strategies for HIV prevention: “voluntary counselling and testing for couples should be promoted, as should other evidence-based interventions that target heterosexual couples.”
According to the Kaiser Network:
According to the researchers, a program in Zambia reduced HIV rates from 20% to 7% by providing HIV counseling to couples. They added that if such a program were applied more broadly, HIV transmission rates potentially would be reduced by 36% to 60%.
The researchers said that most HIV prevention efforts in Africa are focused on abstinence and sex outside marriage, but the findings indicate that investing in counseling for couples who are married or living together might have a significant impact. “To reduce HIV transmission, couples need to know their joint (HIV status) and have access to information which enables them to reduce the risk of infection both within and outside the union,” Dunkle said. She added, “This is especially important for women, who might not have the cultural freedom to negotiate condom use and sexual activity within a union” (Reuters, 6/26).