HIV/AIDS: Tracing the multiple concurrent partner debate

Photo: Zoe Flood/IRIN


JOHANNESBURG, 18 October 2010 (PlusNews) – As the debate heats up about whether or not multiple concurrent partnerships (MCPs) are major drivers of Africa’s HIV epidemics, IRIN/PlusNews takes a look at the evolution of the theory behind MCPs.

1982 – Uganda diagnoses its first case of HIV along the shores of Lake Victoria.

1986 – Uganda’s civil war ends and the country establishes its first national HIV prevention programme which incorporates the message of “zero grazing” aimed at encouraging faithfulness and partner reduction – effectively the world’s first MCP campaign.

1992 – British epidemiologists Robert May and Charlotte Watts propose that long-term simultaneous partnerships might increase the spread of HIV.

Also around this time, Christopher Hudson becomes interested in concurrency while treating sexually transmitted infections in London. He hypothesizes that MCPs may explain the high prevalence of briefly infectious STIs such as gonorrhea among some groups of his clients. He hypothesizes that if clients had stayed in long-term, monogamous relationships, short-lived infections would have died out within these London communities. The lingering presence of the disease in some sexual networks could be explained by people infected with gonorrhea having multiple partners during their brief periods of infectivity.

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