Epidemiology of human immunodeficiency virus in families in Lusaka, Zambia

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr (1988). 1990;3(1):83-6.


Persons living in the same household as index patients with AIDS or ARC in Lusaka, Zambia were clinically and serologically evaluated for HIV-1 infection. In the 150 households of male index cases, 92 (61.3%) of their spouses were infected, compared with 57 (73.1%) of the spouses of the 78 female index cases. The more advanced the clinical stage of illness in the index cases, the greater the probability of HIV infection in the spouse (RR = 4.44), and the more likely the spouse was symptomatic. Four of the 11 spouses who seroconverted to HIV had also had sexual intercourse at a time when their HIV-infected partner had genital ulcers (RR = 7.45). Of 144 children under 5 years of age, 36 (25.0%) were infected, all had infected mothers and were the last to be borne in all but one household. Three of 120 children 5 to 10 years of age were also infected, presumably through perinatal transmission. Forty-six of 52 discordantly infected couples followed for 1 year continued to have unprotected vaginal intercourse, and 11 (21.2%) of these seroconverted to HIV. There were no HIV infections that could be attributed to transmission by other means than heterosexual intercourse between spouses or by perinatal infection in children borne of infected mothers. The study suggests that there is an increasing risk of HIV heterosexual transmission as infection progresses in the infected partner, and that more effective counseling is needed to prevent it.

PIP: An investigation of members of households of patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and AIDS-related complex (ARC) in Lusaka, Zambia, revealed a high rate of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in marital partners, regardless of the sex of the index case. The study, conducted in August 1985-June 1987, involved individuals in 244 households of index patients diagnosed with AIDS or ARC. 92 (61.3%) of the 150 male index cases and 57 (73.1%) of the 71 female index cases had an HIV-infected marital partner, and the severity of HIV disease (AIDS or ARC) in the index partner was linearly associated with the severity of HIV disease in the spouse. 10 (25.6%) of 39 uninfected wives of HIV-positive men compared with only 1 (7.7%) of 13 uninfected husbands seroconverted during the 1st year of follow- up. 4 of the 11 spouses who seroconverted during this period reported sexual intercourse at a time when their HIV-infected partner had genital ulcers. Of the 264 children under 10 years of age from 154 households with an HIV-positive adult who were also evaluated as part of this study, 39 (14.8%) were infected--26 had ARC and 13 had asymptomatic infection. Only 3 of the infected children were older than 5 years of age; the mean was 24.9 months. In all cases, transmission in children was attributable to HIV infection in the mother. These findings suggest a need for more aggressive counseling to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV infection to uninfected partners. 46 of 52 discordantly infected couples followed for 1 year continued to have unprotected vaginal intercourse--a factor that certainly contributed to the high concordance of HIV infection among the couples in this study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Complex / epidemiology*
  • AIDS-Related Complex / transmission
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / transmission
  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coitus
  • Female
  • HIV-1
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Zambia / epidemiology