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Reprod Health Matters. 2008 Nov;16(32):151-61. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(08)32407-0.

Couple-centred testing and counselling for HIV serodiscordant heterosexual couples in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Centre Population Développement (CEPED), Paris, France.


In Africa, a large proportion of HIV infections occur within stable relationships, either because of prior infection of one of the partners or because of infidelity. In five African countries at least two-thirds of couples with at least one HIV-positive partner were HIV serodiscordant; in half of them, the woman was the HIV-positive partner. Hence, there is an urgent need to define strategies to prevent HIV transmission within couple relationships. HIV counselling and testing have largely been organised on an individual and sex-specific basis, for pregnant women in programmes for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and in STI consultations and recently male circumcision for men. A couple-centred approach to HIV counselling and testing would facilitate communication about HIV status and adoption of preventive behaviours within couples. This paper reviews what is known about HIV serodiscordance in heterosexual couples in sub-Saharan Africa and what has been published about couple-centred initiatives for HIV counselling and testing since the early 1990s. Despite positive outcomes, couple-oriented programmes have not been implemented on a large scale. In order to stimulate and strengthen HIV prevention efforts, increased attention is required to promote prevention and testing and counselling for couples in stable relationships.

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