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Heterosexual anal intercourse among community and clinical settings in Cape Town, South Africa


Background: Anal intercourse is an efficient mode of HIV transmission and may play a role in the heterosexual HIV epidemics of southern Africa. However, little information is available on the anal sex practices of heterosexual individuals in South Africa.

Purpose: To examine the occurrence of anal intercourse in samples drawn from community and clinic settings.

Methods: Anonymous surveys collected from convenience samples of 2593 men and 1818 women in two townships and one large city sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic in Cape Town. Measures included demographics, HIV risk history, substance use and 3-month retrospective sexual behaviour.

Results: A total of 14% (n  =  360) men and 10% (n  =  172) women reported engaging in anal intercourse in the past 3 months. Men used condoms during 67% and women 50% of anal intercourse occasions. Anal intercourse was associated with younger age, being unmarried, having a history of STI, exchanging sex, using substances, having been tested for HIV and testing HIV positive.

Conclusions: Anal intercourse is reported relatively less frequently than unprotected vaginal intercourse among heterosexual individuals. The low prevalence of anal intercourse among heterosexual individuals may be offset by its greater efficiency for transmitting HIV. Anal sex should be discussed in heterosexual HIV prevention programming.

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