Could differences in implicit attitudes to sexual concurrency play a role in generalized HIV epidemics?

Chris R. Kenyon, K.E.M. Wolfs, Kara Osbak, Maleeto Malataliana, Guido van Hal, Sizwe Zondo, J.J.D.M. van Lankveld

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    Background: Sexual partner concurrency has been implicated in the genesis of generalized HIV epidemic in South Africa. Most South Africans, however, disapprove of concurrency in surveys. These surveys test individuals' explicit attitudes which are susceptible to a number of important biases such as the social desirability bias. Assessment of implicit cognitions have been found to be better predictors of behaviour in socially sensitive domains. We hypothesized that South Africans may have implicit attitudes more tolerant of concurrency than lower concurrency prevalence populations.

    Methods: To test this hypothesis, we developed a concurrency-implicit association test (C-IAT) and compared the C-IATs of samples of South African and Belgian university students.

    Results: We found a large and statistically significant difference in the C-IAT between the South Africans (D600-score = -0.009, indicating absence of preference for concurrency or monogamy) and Belgians (D600-score = 0.783, indicating a strong preference for monogamy; t-test = 13.3; P < 0.0001). The effect size measure, Cohen's d, was found to be 0.88, which is considered a large effect size in this field.

    Conclusions: Our results are compatible with the thesis that differences in implicit attitudes to concurrency play a role in the genesis of generalised HIV epidemics.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number608
    Number of pages23
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2018


    • HIV
    • concurrency
    • implicit association
    • sexual networks


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