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Impact of HIV testing on sexual health communication in South Africa
  1. Lori A J Scott-Sheldon1,
  2. Michael P Carey1,
  3. Kate B Carey1,
  4. Demetria Cain2,
  5. Redwaan Vermaak3,
  6. Jacqueline Mthembu3,
  7. Ofer Harel4,
  8. Leickness C Simbayi3,
  9. Seth C Kalichman2
  1. 1Center for Health and Behavior, Syracuse University, New York, USA
  2. 2Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA
  3. 3Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS and Health, Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa
  4. 4Department of Statistics, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lori A J Scott-Sheldon, Center for Health and Behavior, 430 Huntington Hall, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244-2340, USA; lajss{at}


Objectives The South African government recently launched a national campaign to test 15 million South Africans for HIV by 2011. Little is known about how receipt of HIV testing might influence interpersonal communication. To explore these questions, the authors examined the effects of prior HIV testing on sexual health communication among South Africans.

Methods Adults (N=1284; 98% black, 36% women, mean age 31) residing in a South African township completed street-intercept surveys.

Results Of the 1284 participants, 811 (63%) had been tested for HIV. Among those who had been tested, 77% tested negative, 12% tested positive, and 11% did not know their test result or refused to answer. Compared with those who had not been tested, participants who had been tested for HIV were more likely to communicate with community members about (a) HIV/AIDS, (b) getting tested for HIV, and (c) using condoms. Testing positive for HIV was associated with communication with sexual partners about condom use. Among participants who had been tested for HIV, exploratory analyses revealed that those who had engaged in sexual health communication with community members or sexual partners reported more condom-protected sex than those who had not engaged in sexual health communication.

Conclusions HIV testing is associated with sexual health communication among South African community members and sexual partners. Offering HIV testing to all South Africans may increase communication and lead to reductions in sexual risk.

  • HIV testing
  • communication
  • HIV
  • South Africa
  • sexual risk
  • Africa
  • sexual behaviour

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  • Funding This project was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01-AA017399 to SCK).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the institutional review boards of the Human Sciences Research Council, University of Connecticut, and Syracuse University.

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