Menu Close

Concurrent Sexual Partnerships and Human Immunodeficiency Virus Risk among South African Youth


Steffenson, Annie E.; Pettifor, Audrey E.; Seage, George R., III; Rees, Helen V.; & Cleary, Paul D. (2011). Concurrent Sexual Partnerships and Human Immunodeficiency Virus Risk among South African Youth. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 38(6), 459-466. PMCID: PMC3763704


BACKGROUND: To estimate the prevalence of concurrency (more than 1 sex partner overlapping in time), the attitudes/behaviors of those engaged in concurrency, length of relationship overlap, and the association between concurrency and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among South Africans aged 15 to 24 years.
METHODS: A cross-sectional, nationally representative, household survey of HIV infection, and sexual attitudes and behaviors was conducted among 11,904 15 to 24 year old South Africans in 2003. Analyses were conducted among sexually experienced youth.
RESULTS: Men were more likely to report having concurrent (24.7%) than serial partners (5.7%) in the past 12 months, but concurrency was not associated with HIV. Among women, concurrency and serial monogamy were equally common (4.7%), and concurrency, defined by respondent reports of multiple ongoing partners, was associated with HIV in multivariate analysis (odds ratio, 3.4; 95% confidence interval, 1.8-6.5). Median length of relationship overlap was approximately 4 months for women and 3 months for men. Compared to serial monogamists, concurrents reported less consistent condom use, and female concurrents were more likely to report transactional sex and problems negotiating condoms and refusing intercourse.
CONCLUSIONS: Concurrency is a common partnership pattern among those youth with multiple partners, especially men. For women, having concurrent relationships may be associated with relationship power imbalances and less ability to protect against HIV. Given the prevalence and likely significance of concurrency in the spread of HIV throughout a sexual network, our findings underscore the need for prevention efforts targeting fidelity.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Sexually Transmitted Diseases


Steffenson, Annie E.
Pettifor, Audrey E.
Seage, George R., III
Rees, Helen V.
Cleary, Paul D.