Objective: To examine the association of alcohol use and sexual risks for HIV infection in South Africa.
Method: 149 men and 78 women receiving sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic services in Cape Town, South Africa, completed measures of demographic characteristics, sexual behaviors, HIV risk reduction skills and substance use, including global measures (e.g., Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test [AUDIT]) and situational measures of alcohol use.
Results: 52% of men (n = 72) and 17% of women (n = 13) indicated problem drinking (AUDIT score > or = 9). Problem drinking was associated with greater numbers of sex partners in the past month, history of condom failures and lifetime history of having an STI, as well as lower rates of practicing risk reduction skills. In a separate analysis controlling for global use of alcohol indexed by AUDIT scores, we found that alcohol use in sexual contexts was associated with greater numbers of sex partners, higher rates of unprotected intercourse and condom failures.
Conclusions: Findings from this initial study of alcohol use and sexual risks in South Africa parallel those from other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Although limited to STI clinic patients, the results suggest that effective HIV risk reduction interventions will require attention to alcohol use, particularly among South Africans at highest risk for HIV infection.