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Sexual risk during pregnancy and postpartum periods among HIV-infected and –uninfected South African women: Implications for primary and secondary HIV prevention interventions



HIV acquisition in pregnancy and breastfeeding contributes significantly toward pediatric HIV infection. However, little is known about how sexual behavior changes during pregnancy and postpartum periods which will help develop targeted HIV prevention and transmission interventions, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).


Cross-sectional study in HIV-infected and uninfected pregnant and postpartum women in Cape Town, South Africa. Interviewers collected survey data on demographic, sexual behaviors, and alcohol use among pregnant and post-partum women. We report descriptive results of sexual behavior by trimester and postpartum period, and results of multivariable logistic regression stratified by pregnancy status.


We enrolled 377 pregnant and postpartum women (56% pregnant, 40% HIV-infected). During pregnancy, 98% of women reported vaginal sex (8% anal sex, 44% oral sex) vs. 35% and 88% during the periods 0-6 and 7-12 months postpartum, respectively (p<0.05). More pregnant women reported having >1 partner in the past 12-months compared to postpartum women (18% vs. 13%, respectively, p<0.05). Sex frequency varied by trimester with greatest mean sex acts occurring during first trimester and >6-months postpartum (13 mean sex acts in first trimester; 17 mean sex acts >6-months postpartum). Pregnant women had increased odds of reporting condomless sex at last sex (aOR = 2.96;95%CI = 1.84-4.78) and ever having condomless sex in past 3-months (aOR = 2.65;95%CI = 1.30-5.44) adjusting for age, HIV status, and sex frequency compared to postpartum women.


We identified that sexual behaviors and risk behaviors were high and changing during pregnancy and postpartum periods, presenting challenges to primary and secondary HIV prevention efforts, including PrEP delivery to pregnant and breastfeeding women.

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