Reported oral and anal sex among adolescents and adults reporting heterosexual sex in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review

Reprod Health. 2019 May 6;16(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s12978-019-0722-9.


Background: Oral and anal sexual behaviours are increasingly reported among adolescents and adults reporting heterosexual sex in peer-reviewed journals in high income countries, but less is known about these behaviours in low and middle-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The aim of this systematic review is to describe the prevalence of, and motivations for, oral and anal sex among adolescents and adults reporting heterosexual sex in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: A systematic review of published articles that reported oral and or anal sex in sub-Saharan Africa was conducted from seven databases up to and including 30th August 2018.

Results: Of 13,592 articles, 103 met the inclusion criteria. The prevalence of reporting ever practising oral sex among adolescents, university students and a combined population of adolescents/adults ranged from 1.7-26.6%, 5.0-46.4% and 3.0-47.2% respectively. Similarly, prevalences of reported ever practising anal sex ranged from 6.4-12.4% among adolescents, 0.3-46.5% among university students and 4.3-37.8% amongst combined population of adolescents and adults. Higher prevalences of oral and anal sex were reported among populations at high-risk for sexually transmitted infections and HIV and university students and, in most studies, both behaviours were more commonly reported by males than females. Heterosexual oral and anal sexual acts were associated with some high-risk behaviours such as inconsistent condom use and multiple sexual partners.

Conclusion: Reported oral and anal sex between men and women are prevalent behaviours in sub-Saharan Africa. Health professionals and policy makers should be aware of these behaviours and their potential associated health risks.

Keywords: Adolescent; Adult; Heterosexual; Oral/anal sex; Sexual behaviour; Sub-Saharan Africa.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Humans
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*