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Sexual partner reduction and HIV infection
  1. Edward C Green,
  2. Aldo Conde
  1. 2807 38th Street, NW Washington, DC 20007, USA
  1. Dr Green

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Editor,— We recently conducted a national urban random sample survey of 1400 men of sexually active age in the Dominican Republic to measure possible change in sexual behaviour. This sexual behaviour change (SBC) survey was prompted by results from the 1996 demographic and health survey, which found that 84.8% of a national random sample of Dominican men claimed that they had changed their behaviour in some way because of their fear of, or concern about, AIDS. The proportion of respondents reporting behaviour change such as becoming monogamous or reducing their number of sexual partners was about triple the proportion reporting condom adoption. In our SBC survey, 79% of respondents claimed to have changed behaviour because of concern about AIDS. A majority (52.2%) said they had become monogamous or reduced their number of sexual partners. This was followed by condom adoption (14.6%), only having sexual relations with a person they know (13.9%); avoiding relations with “prostitutes” (9.0%); or becoming abstinent (1.6%). A small proportion (2.8%) had not yet begun to have sexual relations. As with the Dominican DHS findings, we see that most answers are classifiable as behaviour change, as distinct from condom adoption. This follows a pattern found in recent studies in countries such as Uganda and Zambia. A recent review of findings from behavioural change surveys in 16 countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean shows that partner reduction is more often reported than condom adoption.1 If sizeable numbers of men reduce their number of sexual partners, can this have significant impact on HIV infection rates? Urban HIV seroprevalence among the general or low risk Dominican population seems to have stabilised at the 1.9–2.0% level since 1995, according to the US Census Bureau. Recent studies that have modelled the impact of different interventions on HIV infection rates in east Africa suggest that reduction in number of partners can have a great impact on averting HIV infections, in fact greater than either condom use or treatment of STDs.2, 3 Of course, impact of partner reduction on HIV infection rates would be especially strong where there is relatively high HIV seroprevalence among potential partners. In view of these modelling studies as well as population based surveys such as the two cited from the Dominican Republic, perhaps there ought to be greater equity in resource allocation between HIV/AIDS prevention programmes promoting behaviour change—such as monogamy/fidelity or at least reduction of number and frequency of change of sex partners—and far more familiar programmes that promote and provide condoms.