[originally published on aidsmap, april 10, 2008]

Individuals enrolled on HIV prevention trials in Africa should be asked if they have had anal sex, suggest investigators in a article published in the online edition of Sexually Transmitted Infections. Their study found that 18% of women enrolled in their study had recently had receptive anal sex and that undiagnosed anal sexually transmitted infections were present in many of these individuals.

Studies into sexual behaviour in Africa have often neglected to enquire about anal sex, and sex between men. There has either been an assumption that such behaviour was not prevalent, or a sensitivity to cultural taboos and prejudices means that investigators are reluctant to enquire about such behaviour. But studies are now suggesting that anal intercourse is common in Africa in both heterosexual and homosexual contexts and is an important mode of HIV transmission.

The study also showed that relying on patient report of symptoms will lead to many sexually transmitted infections remaining undiagnosed, and that simple microscope examinations of genital and anal swabs can lead to more infections being diagnosed.

Read the rest on aidsmap.

For related analysis, read IRMA‘s new report – “Less Silence, More Science” here.