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A scoping review and thematic analysis of social and behavioural research among HIV-serodiscordant couples in high-income settings

BMC Public Health, 2015, 15:241 (doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1488-9).

Authors: Joshua B Mendelsohn, Liviana Calzavara, Amrita Daftary, Sanjana Mitra, Joel Pidutti, Dan Allman, Adam Bourne, Mona Loutfy and Ted Myers

Abstract

Background: While HIV incidence has stabilized in many settings, increases in health and wellbeing among many people living with HIV/AIDS suggest that the number of HIV-serodiscordant relationships is growing. Given the deficit of reviews addressing social and behavioural characteristics of HIV-serodiscordant couples within high-income settings, our objective was to understand the scope of the published literature, identify evidence gaps, and suggest future research needs.

Methods: Ten electronic databases were searched. Studies were included if they were reported in English, used primary data, were from the combination antiretroviral (cART) era (>1996), reported on social or behavioural aspects, included any fraction of primary (i.e., stable) relationships, and were conducted in high-income settings. Studies that identified their unit of analysis as either the dyad or individual member of the couple were included. Studies were coded according to a thematic framework.

Results: Included studies (n = 154) clustered into eight themes: risk behaviours (29%), risk management (26%), reproductive issues (12%), relationship quality (9%), serostatus disclosure (7%), adherence to antiretroviral therapy (7%), vulnerability (5%), and social support (3%). The proportion of studies conducted among heterosexual couples, same-sex male couples, and mixed cohorts were 42%, 34%, and 24%, respectively. Most studies (70%) were conducted in the United States, 70% of all studies were quantitative (including interventions), but only one-third were focused on couples (dyads) where both partners are recruited to a study. Over 25% of studies focused on sexual risk among same-sex male couples.

Conclusions: Future research efforts should focus on the interrelationship of risk management strategies and relationship quality, social determinants of health and well-being, HIV testing, vulnerable populations, reproductive issues among same-sex couples, disclosure of serodiscordant status to social networks, dyadic studies, population-based studies, and interventions to support risk management within couples. Additional population-based studies and studies among marginalized groups would be helpful for targeting research and interventions to couples that are most in need. As HIV-positive partners are typically the link to services and research, innovative ways are needed for reaching out to HIV-negative partners. Our review suggests that significantly more research is needed to understand the social and behavioural contexts of HIV-serodiscordant relationships.

Keywords

High-income settings; HIV; AIDS; Serodiscordant; Relationships; Review; Social; Behavioural

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