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HIV infection and sexual behaviour in primary and secondary infertile relationships: a case–control study in Kigali, Rwanda
  1. Nathalie Dhont1,2,
  2. Claude Muvunyi3,4,
  3. Stanley Luchters1,
  4. Joseph Vyankandondera2,5,
  5. Ludwig De Naeyer6,
  6. Marleen Temmerman1,
  7. Janneke van de Wijgert7,8
  1. 1International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  2. 2Projet Ubuzima, Kigali, Rwanda
  3. 3Microbiology Department, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  4. 4National University of Rwanda, Microbiology Department, Butare, Rwanda
  5. 5Belgian Technical Cooperation, Rwanda
  6. 6Management Sciences for Health, Rwanda
  7. 7Academic Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdam, Department of Internal Medicine, The Netherlands
  8. 8Institute for Global Health and Development, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr N Dhont, c/o Projet Ubuzima, Rue Akagera n 715, Kiyovu, Kigali, Rwanda; dhontnathalie{at}


Objective To compare the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (including HIV) and of high-risk sexual behaviour in the following three groups: primary infertile relationships, secondary infertile relationships and fertile relationships. Primary infertility is here defined as never having conceived before, secondary infertility as infertility subsequent to having conceived at least once.

Design Unmatched case–control study.

Methods Sexually active infertile women aged 21–45 years presenting at an infertility clinic of the Kigali Teaching Hospital, Rwanda and their male partners were invited to participate. Fertile controls who had recently delivered were recruited from the community. In a face-to-face interview, participants were asked about sociodemographic characteristics and their sexual behaviours, and tested for HIV and STIs.

Results Between November 2007 and May 2009, 312 women and 254 partners in infertile relationships and 312 women and 189 partners in fertile relationships were enrolled. Involvement in a secondary infertile relationship was associated with HIV infection after adjusting for sociodemographic covariates for women (adjusted OR (AOR)=4.03, 95% CI 2.4 to 6.7) and for men (AOR=3.3, 95% CI 1.8 to 6.4). Involvement in a primary infertile relationship, however, was not. Secondary infertile women were more likely to have engaged in risky sexual behaviour during their lifetime compared with primary infertile and fertile women. Men in primary and secondary infertile relationships more often reported multiple partners in the past year (AOR=5.4, 95% CI 2.2 to 12.7; AOR=7.1, 95% CI 3.2 to 15.8, respectively).

Conclusions Increased HIV prevalence and risky sexual behaviour among infertile couples is driven by secondary infertility. Infertile couples, and especially those with secondary infertility, should be targeted for HIV prevention programmes and their fertility problems should be addressed.

  • HIV
  • infertility
  • sexual behaviour
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • Rwanda
  • Africa

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  • Funding This study was funded by a PhD grant from the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR-UOS). The project also received funding from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) through a project entitled: ‘Preparing for phase III vaginal microbicide trials in Rwanda and Kenya: preparedness studies, capacity building and strengthening of medical referral systems.’ However, EDCTP cannot accept any responsibility for information or views expressed herein.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Rwanda National Ethics Committee and ethics committee of the University Hospital Ghent.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.