Campus Study Finds that HIV Transmission from Infidelity Higher than Previously Thought
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and McMaster University report that previous studies have underestimated the rate of HIV transmission from infidelity. According to Professor Wayne Getz, women are more likely to be infected with HIV before they enter a stable relationship, whereas men are more likely to be infected through infidelity. Getz suggested it is possible that pre-relationship transmission is higher for women because they tend to be “involved” with older men who have had more partners and more exposure to HIV and other STDs.
To reach this conclusion, the research team studied differences in HIV prevalence among single people and “cohabiting partners” in sub-Saharan Africa, and then compared results with the population’s background HIV rates. The study, which used math modeling to estimate whether HIV transmission was due to infidelity, indicated that “out-of-couple” sex was responsible for 27 to 61 percent of HIV infections in men and 21 to 51 percent in women.
Based on the study’s findings, the researchers recommend that HIV prevention should focus on the entire sexually active population rather than concentrating on couples in which one person has HIV and the partner does not. The authors also recommended prompt treatment for all HIV-infected people to prevent spreading the virus.
Co-author Professor Jonathan Dushoff stated that the study clarifies that all routes of transmission—pre-relationship, extra-relationship, and within relationship—are important.
The full report, “Extra-couple HIV Transmission in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Mathematical Modelling Study of Survey Data,” was published online in the journal The Lancet (2013; doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61960-6).
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