Sustained effect of couples' HIV counselling and testing on risk reduction among Zambian HIV serodiscordant couples

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BackgroundWe present temporal trends in self-reported and biological markers of unprotected sex and sex with concurrent partners in discordant couples receiving couples' voluntary HIV counselling and testing (CVCT).MethodsHeterosexual Zambian HIV-serodiscordant couples were enrolled into longitudinal follow-up in an open cohort (1994–2012). Multivariable Anderson-Gill models explored predictors of self-report and biological indicators of unprotected sex within (including sperm on a vaginal swab, incident pregnancy or incident linked HIV infection) and outside (including self-report, STI and unlinked HIV infection) the union. Measures of secular trends in baseline measures were also examined.ResultsAt enrolment of 3049 couples, men were 35 years old on average, women were 29 years, and couples had been together for an average of 7 years. M+F− couples reported an average of 16.6 unprotected sex acts in the 3 months prior to enrolment (pre-CVCT), dropping to 5.3 in the >0–3 month interval, and 2.0 in >6 month intervals (p-trend <0.001). Corresponding values for M−F+ couples were 22.4 unprotected sex acts in the 3 months prior enrolment, dropping to 5.2 in the >0–3 month interval, and 3.1 in >6 month intervals (p-trend <0.001). Significant reductions in self-report and biological markers of outside partners were also noted. Predictors of unprotected sex between study partners after CVCT included prevalent pregnancy (adjusted HR, aHR=1.6–1.9); HIV+ men being circumcised (aHR=1.2); and HIV− women reporting sex with outside partners (aHR=1.3), alcohol (aHR=1.2), injectable (aHR=1.4) or oral (aHR=1.4) contraception use. Fertility intentions were also predictive of unprotected sex (aHR=1.2–1.4). Secular trends indicated steady declines in reported outside partners and STIs.ConclusionReductions in self-reported unprotected sex after CVCT were substantial and sustained. Reinforced risk-reduction counselling in pregnant couples, couples desiring children and couples with HIV− women having outside partners or using alcohol or injectable or oral contraception are indicated.

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