Sustained effect of couples' HIV counselling and testing on risk reduction among Zambian HIV serodiscordant couples

Sex Transm Infect. 2017 Jun;93(4):259-266. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2016-052743. Epub 2017 Jan 12.


Background: We present temporal trends in self-reported and biological markers of unprotected sex and sex with concurrent partners in discordant couples receiving couples' voluntary HIV counselling and testing (CVCT).

Methods: Heterosexual Zambian HIV-serodiscordant couples were enrolled into longitudinal follow-up in an open cohort (1994-2012). Multivariable Anderson-Gill models explored predictors of self-report and biological indicators of unprotected sex within (including sperm on a vaginal swab, incident pregnancy or incident linked HIV infection) and outside (including self-report, STI and unlinked HIV infection) the union. Measures of secular trends in baseline measures were also examined.

Results: At enrolment of 3049 couples, men were 35 years old on average, women were 29 years, and couples had been together for an average of 7 years. M+F- couples reported an average of 16.6 unprotected sex acts in the 3 months prior to enrolment (pre-CVCT), dropping to 5.3 in the >0-3 month interval, and 2.0 in >6 month intervals (p-trend <0.001). Corresponding values for M-F+ couples were 22.4 unprotected sex acts in the 3 months prior enrolment, dropping to 5.2 in the >0-3 month interval, and 3.1 in >6 month intervals (p-trend <0.001). Significant reductions in self-report and biological markers of outside partners were also noted. Predictors of unprotected sex between study partners after CVCT included prevalent pregnancy (adjusted HR, aHR=1.6-1.9); HIV+ men being circumcised (aHR=1.2); and HIV- women reporting sex with outside partners (aHR=1.3), alcohol (aHR=1.2), injectable (aHR=1.4) or oral (aHR=1.4) contraception use. Fertility intentions were also predictive of unprotected sex (aHR=1.2-1.4). Secular trends indicated steady declines in reported outside partners and STIs.

Conclusion: Reductions in self-reported unprotected sex after CVCT were substantial and sustained. Reinforced risk-reduction counselling in pregnant couples, couples desiring children and couples with HIV- women having outside partners or using alcohol or injectable or oral contraception are indicated.


MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraception Behavior
  • Counseling* / methods
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • HIV Seropositivity / psychology*
  • Heterosexuality
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • Zambia