Research Summary: Predictors of Inconsistent Condom Use among a Hard to Reach Population of Young Women with Multiple Sexual Partners in Peri-Urban South Africa



Evidence suggests that multiple concurrent sexual partnering may be a key driver of the high HIV prevalence among young women in South Africa. However, little is known about whether and to what extent women who have multiple sexual partners also engage in other high risk sexual behaviors such as inconsistent condom use. And yet, multiple concurrent sexual partnering is of little epidemiological relevance if all partners in these sexual networks use condoms consistently. This study assesses the prevalence of sexual risk behaviors and HIV, and predictors of inconsistent condom use among women aged 16–24 with multiple sexual partners in a peri-urban setting in South Africa.


We used Respondent Driven Sampling, a sampling strategy for hard-to-reach populations to recruit 259 women aged 16–24 in a bio-behavioral cross-sectional survey in the Western Cape province. Estimates of population proportions and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using the Respondent-Driven Sampling Analysis Tool 5.6 (RDSAT). The primary outcome was inconsistent condom use in the past three months.


Young women reported an average of 7 partners in the past 3 months and a high prevalence of sexual risk behaviors: concurrency (87%), transactional sex (91%) and age mixing (59%). Having >5 sexual partners in the last 3 months doubled the risk of unprotected sex (OR 2.43, CI 1.39–4.25). HIV prevalence was 4% among 16–19 year olds, increasing threefold (12%) at age 20–24.


Multiple sexual partnering, where a high number of partners are acquired in a short space of time, is a fertile context for unprotected and risky sexual behavior. The young women featured in this survey present with a constellation of high-risk sexual behaviors that cluster to form a risk syndrome. Carefully tailored repeat bio-behavioral surveillance surveys are recommended for this sub-population.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 20-December-2012

Author(s): Zembe Y., Townsend L., Thorson A., Ekström A.


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