High Rates of STD and Sexual Risk Behaviors Among Garífunas in Honduras

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Honduras has the highest concentration of HIV and AIDS cases in Central America, with an estimated adult HIV prevalence of 1.5%. Prevalence is higher among certain ethnic groups such as the Garífuna with a reported HIV prevalence of 8%.


A biological and behavioral survey was conducted on a stratified random sample of the Garífuna population in Honduras, using computer-assisted interviews. Blood was tested for HIV, herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2), and syphilis; urine was tested for Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoea, Trichomonas vaginalis, and Mycoplasma genitalum.


We enrolled a total of 817 participants, 41% female and 51% male. Estimated prevalences and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were: HIV, 4.5% (95% CI: 3.0 to 6.6), HSV-2, 51.1% (95% CI: 46.7 to 55.6), and syphilis seropositivity, 2.4% (95% CI: 1.4 to 4.0). Sexually transmitted infections in urine were: chlamydia, 6.8% (95% CI: 4.7 to 9.7), gonorrhea, 1.1% (95% CI: 0.4 to 2.9), trichomoniasis, 10.5% (95% CI: 8.1 to 13.6), and Mycoplasma genitalium, 7.1% (95% CI: 5.1 to 9.9). Consistent condom use was low with stable (10.6%) and casual (41.4%) partners. In multivariate analysis, HIV was associated with rural residence. HSV-2 was associated with female sex, older age, and syphilis seropositivity.


We found a moderate prevalence of HIV and a high prevalence of HSV-2 among the Garífunas. HSV-2 may increase the vulnerability of these populations to HIV in the future. Intervention strategies should emphasize sexually transmitted infection control and condom promotion, specifically targeting the Garífuna population.

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