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Promotion of couples' voluntary counselling and testing for HIV through influential networks in two African capital cities

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      Abstract

      BackgroundMost new HIV infections in Africa are acquired from cohabiting heterosexual partners. Couples' Voluntary Counselling and Testing (CVCT) is an effective prevention strategy for this group. We present our experience with a community-based program for the promotion of CVCT in Kigali, Rwanda and Lusaka, Zambia.MethodsInfluence Network Agents (INAs) from the health, religious, non-governmental, and private sectors were trained to invite couples for CVCT. Predictors of successful promotion were identified using a multi-level hierarchical analysis.ResultsIn 4 months, 9,900 invitations were distributed by 61 INAs, with 1,411 (14.3%) couples requesting CVCT. INAs in Rwanda distributed fewer invitations (2,680 vs. 7,220) and had higher response rates (26.9% vs. 9.6%), than INAs in Zambia. Context of the invitation event, including a discreet location such as the INA's home (OR 3.3–3.4), delivery of the invitation to both partners in the couple (OR 1.6–1.7) or to someone known to the INA (OR 1.7–1.8), and use of public endorsement (OR 1.7–1.8) were stronger predictors of success than INA or couple-level characteristics.ConclusionPredictors of successful CVCT promotion included strategies that can be easily implemented in Africa. As new resources become available for Africans with HIV, CVCT should be broadly implemented as a point of entry for prevention, care and support.

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      Virologic and immunologic determinants of heterosexual transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 in Africa.

      More than 80% of the world's HIV-infected adults live in sub-Saharan Africa, where heterosexual transmission is the predominant mode of spread. The virologic and immunologic correlates of female-to-male (FTM) and male-to-female (MTF) transmission are not well understood. A total of 1022 heterosexual couples with discordant HIV-1 serology results (one partner HIV infected, the other HIV uninfected) were enrolled in a prospective study in Lusaka, Zambia and monitored at 3-month intervals. A nested case-control design was used to compare 109 transmitters and 208 nontransmitting controls with respect to plasma HIV-1 RNA (viral load, VL), virus isolation, and CD4(+) cell levels. Median plasma VL was significantly higher in transmitters than nontransmitters (123,507 vs. 51,310 copies/ml, p or = 100,000 copies/ml and 4.1 (95% CI: 1.2, 14.1) for VL between 10,000 and 100,000 copies/ml compared with the reference group of <10,000 copies/ml. Corresponding RRs for MTF transmission were 2.1 and 1.2, respectively, with 95% CI both bounding 1. Only 3 of 41 (7%) female transmitters had VL < 10,000 copies/ml compared with 32 of 93 (34%) of female nontransmitters (p < 0.001). The transmission rate within couples was 7.7/100 person-years and did not differ from FTM (61/862 person-years) and MTF (81/978 person-years) transmission. We conclude that the association between increasing plasma viral load was strong for female to male transmission, but was only weakly predictive of male to female transmission in Zambian heterosexual couples. FTM and MTF transmission rates were similar. These data suggest gender-specific differences in the biology of heterosexual transmission.
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        Effect of serotesting with counselling on condom use and seroconversion among HIV discordant couples in Africa.

        To determine whether HIV testing and counselling increased condom use and decreased heterosexual transmission of HIV in discordant couples. Prospective study. Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Cohabiting couples with discordant HIV serology results. Condom use in the couple and HIV seroconversion in the negative partners. 60 HIV discordant couples were identified, of whom 53 were followed for an average of 2.2 years. The proportion of discordant couples using condoms increased from 4% to 57% after one year of follow up. During follow up two of the 23 HIV negative men and six of the 30 HIV negative women seroconverted (seroconversion rates of 4 and 9 per 100 person years). The rate among women was less than half that estimated for similar women in discordant couples whose partners had not been serotested. Condom use was less common among those who seroconverted (100% v 5%, p = 0.01 in men; 67% v 25%, p = 0.14 in women). Roughly one in seven cohabiting couples in Kigali have discordant HIV serological results. Confidential HIV serotesting with counselling caused a large increase in condom use and was associated with a lower rate of new HIV infections. HIV testing is a promising intervention for preventing the spread of HIV in African cities.
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          Sexual behavior of HIV discordant couples after HIV counseling and testing.

          Sexual behavior following voluntary HIV counseling and testing (VCT) is described in 963 cohabiting heterosexual couples with one HIV positive and one HIV negative partner ('discordant couples'). Biological markers were used to assess the validity of self-report. Couples were recruited from a same-day VCT center in Lusaka, Zambia. Sexual exposures with and without condoms were recorded at 3-monthly intervals. Sperm detected on vaginal smears, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) including HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis, and Trichomonas vaginalis were assessed. Less than 3% of couples reported current condom use prior to VCT. In the year after VCT, > 80% of reported acts of intercourse in discordant couples included condom use. Reporting 100% condom use was associated with 39-70% reductions in biological markers; however most intervals with reported unprotected sex were negative for all biological markers. Under-reporting was common: 50% of sperm and 32% of pregnancies and HIV transmissions were detected when couples had reported always using condoms. Positive laboratory tests for STD and reported extramarital sex were relatively infrequent. DNA sequencing confirmed that 87% of new HIV infections were acquired from the spouse. Joint VCT prompted sustained but imperfect condom use in HIV discordant couples. Biological markers were insensitive but provided evidence for a significant under-reporting of unprotected sex. Strategies that encourage truthful reporting of sexual behavior and sensitive biological markers of exposure are urgently needed. The impact of prevention programs should be assessed with both behavioral and biological measures.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]The Rwanda-Zambia HIV Research Group, 1520 Clifton Road, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA
            [2 ]Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, 1518 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA
            [3 ]University Teaching Hospital, Lusaka, Zambia
            [4 ]Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1530 3 rd Ave S., Birmingham, AL 35294-0022, USA
            [5 ]Department of Public Health Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 437 HHP Building, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170, USA
            [6 ]Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 4650 Sunset Blvd., CHLA MS 30, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA
            [7 ]School of Medicine, Harvard University, 25 Shattuck Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA
            [8 ]Lusaka Urban District Health Management Team, Makishi Road, PO Box 50827, Lusaka, Zambia
            [9 ]Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, UNAIDS, 20 Avenue Appia, CH-1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland
            [10 ]Counseling Services Unit, Ministry of Health, PO Box 30205, Lusaka, Zambia
            Contributors
            Journal
            BMC Public Health
            BMC Public Health
            BioMed Central
            1471-2458
            2007
            11 December 2007
            : 7
            : 349
            2241615
            1471-2458-7-349
            18072974
            10.1186/1471-2458-7-349
            Copyright © 2007 Allen et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

            Categories
            Research Article

            Public health

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