Background: Although consistent condom use is effective in reducing individual risk for HIV infection, the public health impact of condom promotion in a generalized epidemic is less clear. We assess the change in condom uptake and number of sex partners after a condom promotion trial in Kampala, Uganda.
Methods: Two similar poor urban communities near Kampala were randomized. One received a condom promotion program that taught condom technical use skills in workshops for men aged 18 to 30 years (n = 297) and encouraged condom use. Men in the control community (n = 201) received a brief informational presentation about AIDS. Participants received coupons redeemable for free condoms from distributors in both communities and completed questionnaires at baseline and 6 months later.
Results: Six-month follow-up was completed for 213 men (71.7%) in the intervention group and for 165 (82.1%) men in the control group. Men in the intervention group redeemed significantly more condom coupons than men in the control group (on average, 110 vs. 13 each; P = 0.002). Men in the intervention group increased their number of sex partners by 0.31 compared with a decrease of 0.17 partners in the control group (P = 0.004). Other measures did not support a net reduction in sexual risk in the intervention community compared with the control community and, in fact, showed trends in the opposite direction.
Conclusions: In this study, gains in condom use seem to have been offset by increases in the number of sex partners. Prevention interventions in generalized epidemics need to promote all aspects of sexual risk reduction to slow HIV transmission.