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International News

HIV Mystery in Kenya: Spouses Escape Infection

December 15, 2005

Britain is funding a study to learn why tens of thousands of Kenyans in HIV serodiscordant couples have not transmitted the virus to their husbands or wives.

Along the shores of Lake Victoria, HIV prevalence rates are among the world's highest. Some Kenyan social customs are thought to promote infection. The dominant Luo tribe is averse to circumcision; and, by tradition, when a man dies, his brother inherits his wife. Yet despite these practices, early studies show that up to 40 percent of HIV-positive people in the area have not passed HIV to their spouses despite having unprotected intercourse over long periods of time.

Dr. James Gesami, Nyanza's chief provincial medical officer, offered several possible explanations. "We have a lot of people who travel far to work; maybe they are only seeing their wives once every two months, even once a year, so they are having less sex. Maybe they are not being rough when they have intercourse, or maybe the survey was done at a time when new infections were at a low point."

"Whatever the reasons, we want to make sure we reach as many of these discordant couples and get them tested so that we can counsel them if one is still negative, and keep them negative," said Marilyn McDonagh, Kenya program director for health for the British Department for International Development.

Back to other news for December 15, 2005

Adapted from:
Edmonton Journal
12.14.2005; Mike Pflanz

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More on HIV Prevention in Kenya