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Inconsistent condom use among HIV-positive women in the ‘‘Treatment as Prevention Era’’: data from the Italian DIDI study

Paola Cicconi, Antonella d'Arminio Monforte, Antonella Castagna, Tiziana Quirirno, Anna Alessandrini, Miriam Gargiulo, Daniela Francisci, Enza Anzalone, Giuseppina Liuzzi, Paola Pierro, Adriana Ammassari, on behalf of the Didi Study Group


Introduction: Translation of the evidence regarding the protective role of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) on HIV sexual transmission rates into sexual behaviour patterns of HIV-infected subjects remains largely unexplored. This study aims to describe frequency of self-reported condom use among women living with HIV in Italy and to investigate the variables associated with inconsistent condom use (ICU).

Methods: DIDI (Donne con Infezione Da HIV) is an Italian multicentre study based on a questionnaire survey performed during November 2010 and February 2011. Women-reported frequency of condom use was dichotomized in ‘‘always’’ versus ‘‘at times’’/‘‘never’’ (ICU).

Results: Among 343 women, prevalence of ICU was 44.3%.Women declared a stable partnership with an HIV-negative (38%) and with an HIV-positive person (43%), or an occasional sexual partner (19%). Among the 194 women engaged in a stable HIVnegative or an occasional partnership, 51% reported fear of infecting the partner. Nonetheless, 43% did not disclose HIV-positive status. Less than 5% of women used contraceptive methods other than condoms. At multivariable analysis, variables associated with ICU in the subgroup of women with a stable HIV-negative or an occasional HIV-unknown partner were: having an occasional partner (AOR 3.51, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.44-8.54, p=0.005), and reporting fear of infecting the sexual partner (AOR 3.20, 95% CI 1.43-7.16, p=0.004). Current use of HAART together with virological control in plasma level did not predict ICU after adjusting for demographic, behavioural and HIV-related factors. With regard to socio-demographic factors, lower education was the only variable significantly associated with ICU in the multivariate analysis (AOR 2.27, 95% CI 1.07-4.82, p=0.03). No association was found between high adherence to HAART and ICU after adjusting for potential confounders (AOR 0.89, 95% CI 0.39-2.01, p=0.78).

Conclusions: Currently in Italy, the use of HAART with undetectable HIV RNA in plasma as well as antiretroviral adherence is not associated with a specific condom use pattern in women living with HIV and engaged with a sero-discordant or an HIV-unknown partner. This might suggest that the awareness of the protective role of antiretroviral treatment on HIV sexual transmission is still limited among HIV-infected persons, at least in this country.

Keywords: HIV; women; condom use; antiviral therapy; adherence.

(Published: 17 October 2013)

Citation: Cicconi P et al. Journal of the International AIDS Society 2013, 16:18591 |

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Journal of the International AIDS Society | eISSN 1758-2652 | Editors-in-Chief: Susan Kippax and Kenneth Mayer

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