Objective: To identify demographic, sexual behavioural and cultural risk factors for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in a rural community in Zimbabwe.
Design: Prospective study.
Setting: Rural area in Zimbabwe.
Subjects: 207 subjects (81 males, 126 females) mean age 31.6 years (SD 15.3), range 12 to 76 years living in the area.
Main outcome measures: HIV seropositivity and seroconversion, exposure or no exposure to risk factor.
Results: Prevalence of HIV was 7.7% and was associated with being divorced or widowed [Odds ratio (OR) 4.26, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.17 to 14.97] and past history of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) [(OR 3.54, 95% CI 1.31 to 9.89)]. Seroconversion rate was 3.6% per year and was associated with history of STD [Relative Risk (RR) 13.22, 95% CI 1.15 to 156.1)] during the follow up period. Individuals over 20 years of age, those reporting one or more sexual partners, those reporting irregular use of condoms and those scarified were at greater risk than their counterparts. Individuals who reported being circumcised were at slightly lesser risk than those who did not report circumcision.
Conclusion: STDs were major determinants of HIV transmission in the study area. In addition being divorced or widowed was a risk factor for HIV infection. Scarification, tattooing and circumcision require further investigations.