The authors introduced their study by noting, "While there is much attention on perceived risk of HIV and subsequent cautionary behavior, evidence of the reciprocity of the relationship between recent risky sexual behavior and perceived risks of HIV infection remains scarce." Their research "tests the hypothesis that having multiple sex partners within the last 12 months influences individual's perceived risk of HIV among Zambian men and women." It further examines attitudinal factors associated with multiple sex partners and the perceived risk of HIV infection.
Data were accessed from the 2005 Household and Community Surveys of the Health Communication Partnership project. Included in the sample were 2,610 men and women, as well as 445 community leaders in 36 districts. Tests of exogeneity confirm that having multiple sex partners is exogenous to perceived risk of HIV infection. To test the hypothesis, the authors used structural equation modeling.
"Findings show that having multiple partners is the strongest predictor of perceived risk of HIV," the authors wrote. Compared to women, men were more likely to have multiple partners but were less likely to consider themselves at risk. In addition, men were more likely to be influenced by peers and community members. Women were more likely to report some risk of HIV, provided they were aware of their partner's serostatus and had more interpersonal communication about HIV. Compared to unmarried women, married women were less likely to consider themselves at risk.
"The findings indicate that it is essential for men to recognize the connections between unsafe sex behaviors and risk of HIV infection, and that distinct intervention approaches to Zambian men and women are needed," the authors concluded. "While couple communication needs to be enhanced for both, community-based interventions that approach men are particularly important."