Associations between alcohol misuse and risks for HIV infection among men who have multiple female sexual partners in Cape Town, South Africa
The occurrence of high rates of alcohol consumption in a context of high HIV prevalence in South Africa poses a significant health challenge for this country. This paper aims to answer three questions that could further our knowledge regarding the links between alcohol use and HIV infection: (a) "Are problem drinkers more likely to have multiple concurrent partners than those who are not?"; (b) "Are condoms applied less effectively and less consistently by problem drinkers compared to those who are not?"; (c) "Are the female sexual partners of problem drinkers different from those who are not?" Two cross-sectional HIV bio-behavioural surveillance surveys using Respondent-Driven Sampling were conducted in two peri-urban settings on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. Eight hundred and forty-eight men aged 25-55 years who have multiple, concurrent female sexual partners were recruited. Problem drinkers had a score of ≥3 on the CAGE questionnaire. Questions enquired about partner numbers, condom use and partner traits. Multivariate logistic regression models were developed to determine significant associations between outcome variables and problem drinking. Fifty-eight percent of men were problem drinkers. Compared to non-problem drinkers, problem drinkers were significantly more likely to report having any symptom of a STI; not using condoms due to drinking; inconsistent condom use with all partner types; that their most recent once-off partner was unemployed; having met their most recent partner at an alcohol-serving venue; and having had a once-off sexual relationship. Alcohol may fuel once-off sexual encounters, often characterised by transactional sex and women's limited authority to negotiate sex and condom use; factors that can facilitate transmission of HIV. HIV prevention interventions specifically targeting drinkers, the contexts in which problem drinking occurs and multiple sexual partnering are urgently needed.
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