Objective: To document the sexual and contraceptive practices of women with HIV infection or who are at risk for infection.
Design: Data on the baseline behaviors of 561 HIV-negative and 2040 HIV-positive women were collected as part of the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS). WIHS is a multisite, longitudinal study following the natural history of HIV infection among women in the United States.
Methods: Each participant contributed an interviewer administered, self-report interview including questions on sexual and contraceptive behavior.
Results: Women with HIV were less likely to report heterosexual activity in the previous 6 months (65% HIV-positive, 76% HIV-negative). Among sexually active women, there were no differences in the proportion of those reporting vaginal (97% HIV-positive, 98% HIV-negative) or anal sex (12% HIV-positive, 10% HIV-negative), although women with HIV were less likely to report cunnilingus (41% HIV-positive, 70% HIV-negative) and fellatio (48% HIV-positive, 57% HIV-negative). Of women with HIV, 63% always used condoms during vaginal sex (versus 28% HIV-negative), with lower rates reported during other sexual activities. Crack, cocaine, or injecting drug use, reported by 27% of HIV-positive and 35% of HIV-negative women, was associated with inconsistent condom use, independent of serostatus. HIV-positive women who reported using condoms and another contraception method were less consistent condom users (57% consistent versus 67%).
Conclusions: The prevalence of sexual risk behavior in this sample suggests that, although women with HIV exhibit lower levels of sexual risk behavior than uninfected women, many have not been successfully reached with regard to implementing safer behaviors. These findings have implications for more widespread and effective behavioral intervention efforts.