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New study
      04/05/03 12:13 AM

Sex And HIV: Behaviour-Change Trial Shows No Link
The East African (Nairobi)
March 17, 2003
Posted to the web March 19, 2003
By Paul Redfern, Special Correspondent

A UK funded trial aimed at reducing the spread of Aids in Uganda by
modifying sexual behaviour appears to have had little discernible

The trial, carried out on around 15,000 people in the Masaka region,
involved distributing condoms, treating around 12,000 victims of
sexually transmitted diseases and counselling.

However, while the trial led to a marked change in sexual behavioural
patterns, with the proportion reporting causal sexual partners falling
from around 35 per cent to 15 per cent, there was no noticeable fall
in the number of new cases of HIV infection, although there was a
significant reduction in sexually transmitted diseases such as
syphilis and gonorrhoea.

The trial results, which were reported in the British medical journal
The Lancet, have already aroused some controversy.

The team leader of the trial, Dr Anatoli Kamalai, acknowledged that
there was "no measurable reduction" in HIV incidence with "no hint of
even a small effect."

But the research team's view is that the spread of HIV was already
declining in the area and the trial might not have been big enough to
detect any additional change.

There is, however, another view which has recently been put forward
which claims that inadequately sterilised needles across Africa have
led to a greater rate of HIV infection than sexual contact.

It is a view put forward by a mainly American group of scientists,
including Dr David Gisselquist, who told the Times of London that
"Results from the Masaka study add to the already long list of
findings from other studies that don't fit the hypothesis that most
HIV in African adults is from sexual transmission.

"These results from Masaka are similar to results published earlier
from a similar study in Rakai, Uganda, where interventions that
reduced STD prevalence had no impact on HIV incidence." However, such
a view is by no means mainstream in the latest thinking on the spread
of HIV in Africa.

Most scientific research still believes that HIV is mainly spread by
sexual transmission and that people suffering from STDs are
particularly prone.

The trial was the first systematic attempt on a large scale to assess
whether modifying sexual behaviour and better management of other
sexual diseases could cut the transmission of HIV in Africa.

In a commentary in The Lancet, Judith Stephenson and Frances Cowan of
the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London
acknowledged that "many people will be disappointed by the lack of
reduction in HIV incidence, despite an apparently appropriate
intervention that reduced other STDs and was implemented on a huge
scale with great care and commitment."

The two researchers suggest that it might have been "the right trial
and the wrong time" - when HIV incidence was falling and when there
were already substantial reductions in risk behaviour.

Copyright © 2003 The East African. All rights reserved. Distributed
by AllAfrica Global Media (

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