Lack of Research on HIV-Serodiscordant Couples

While there is a breadth of research on HIV-related issues, the analysis of HIV-serodiscordant couples is sparse, according to a study published on March 12 in BMC Public Health.

While there is a breadth of research on HIV-related issues, the analysis of HIV-serodiscordant couples is sparse, according to a study published on March 12 in BMC Public Health.

Given the advances in HIV treatment and research suggesting HIV-serodiscordant relationships are on the rise, the authors urged for more research be conducted on this demographic.

Using 10 electronic databases, the investigators searched for studies focusing on high-income HIV-serodiscordant couples’ risk behaviours, risk management, reproductive issues, relationship quality, serostatus disclosure, adherence to antiretroviral therapy, vulnerability, and social support. They also noted the makeup of the couples covered in the studies and the country of where the research took place.

Joshua Mendelsohn, a postdoctoral research fellow at the CIHR Social Research Centre in HIV Prevention of the University of Toronto, and his colleagues yielded 2,133 citations, 154 which were used. They discovered, 29% delved into serodiscordant couples’ risk behaviours, 26% into risk management, 12% into reproductive issues, 9% into relationship quality, 7% analyzed serostatus disclosure, 7% looked at adherence to antiretroviral therapy, and only 5% and 3% investigated vulnerability and social support, respectively.

Overall, 42% of the articles used patients in heterosexual relationships, 34% were males in same-sex male couples, and 24% were of mixed cohorts. Moreover, the writers claimed more than one-fourth of aggregated reports looked at sexual risk behaviors in same-sex male couples, and half were qualitative analyses of heterosexual serodiscordant mates.

Furthermore, a majority of the studies — 70% and 21% — were conducted in the US and Europe, respectively.

Concluding their article, the investigators pressed for more research on this demographic, so that appropriate risk prevention and intervention methods can be implemented.

“Additional population-based studies and studies among marginalized groups would be helpful for targeting research and interventions to couples that are most in need,” the investigators wrote.

“As HIV-positive partners are typically the link to services and research, innovative ways are needed for reaching out to HIV-negative partners," they said.