The epidemic of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection in Thailand has allowed an estimate to be made of the probability of female-to-male HIV-1 transmission per sexual contact.
In a study of 1115 21-year-old male military conscripts, of whom 77 (6.9%) were HIV-1 seropositive, sex with female prostitutes was identified as the principal mode of HIV-1 transmission. With a mathematical model including data on conscript's age at first sexual contact, frequency of sex with female prostitutes, and province of origin; as well as province-specific HIV-1 seroprevalence of prostitutes, we estimated the probability of HIV-1 transmission per sexual contact to be 0.031 (95% confidence limits (CL) 0.025-0.040). Allowing for random error in the self-reported frequency of contacts, the estimate was 0.056 (95% CL 0.041-0.075). The transmission probability was significantly greater among men with a history of sexually-transmitted diseases.
These estimates are substantially higher than analogous estimates made in North America.This high per-act probability of heterosexual transmission helps to explain the rapid spread of HIV-1 in the emerging epidemic in Thailand and perhaps in other countries where HIV-1 transmission is predominately heterosexual.