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Mapping divided households and residency changes: the effect of couple separation on sexual behavior and risk of HIV infection.

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Using census data we identify geographic patterns in residency changes in Lesotho over a decade. Using kriging to spatially interpolate data from 8,510 households we identify regions where households have members temporarily living away from home (divided households). Further, using a multivariate analysis and data from 2,026 couples we determine whether a partners' absence increases the likelihood of having extramarital partners and/or risk of HIV infection. Approximately 40% of individuals moved between 2001 and 2011; mainly to, and within, urbanized regions. Many households are divided: ~40% have members elsewhere in Lesotho, ~30% in South Africa (SA). Geographic patterns are apparent; they differ based on where the household member is living. Many couples were temporarily separated: ~50% of wives, ~20% of husbands. Separation was not a risk factor for HIV. Only men were more likely to have extramarital partners if their spouse was away: ~1.5 times if in Lesotho, ~3 times if in SA. The high degree of geographic mixing necessitates synchronizing interventions within Lesotho, and with SA, to successfully reduce transmission. It will be challenging to reduce concurrency in men with wives away from home. Our results are generalizable to other sub-Saharan countries where residency changes are common.

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