Women's HIV transmission risk perceptions and behaviors in the era of potent antiretroviral therapies

AIDS Educ Prev. 2001 Jun;13(3):239-51. doi: 10.1521/aeap.


The availability of potent antiretroviral medications has raised new concerns regarding continued HIV transmission risk behavior among seropositive persons. Relatively little is known about how women with HIV perceive secondary transmission risk in the context of HIV treatment advances. This study describes sexual risk perceptions and behaviors of 80 women enrolled in HIV outpatient care in 1999. Participants completed structured interviews assessing sexual risk perceptions, attitudes regarding severity of HIV disease, sources of HIV prevention information, and sexual practices during the previous 6 months. Medical histories including 6-month cumulative incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) were obtained from a clinic database. Thirty-five percent of the sample had engaged in unprotected intercourse or had been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months. Only 5% of women believed that medication-related reductions in viral load signify safer sex is unimportant, but 15% indicated they practice safer sex less often since the advent of new HIV treatments and 40% believed AIDS is now a less serious threat. These data suggest women's perceptions of diminished disease severity may be more influential than beliefs regarding diminished infectivity. Study results have implications for framing prevention messages for women and suggest that close integration of secondary prevention and clinical HIV services may be beneficial.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / transmission
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / drug therapy
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Safe Sex*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Anti-HIV Agents