A serological and behavioral assessment of HIV infection in the Belize defense force
R. Manzanero1, R. Blanco1, E. Reyes1, R. Jaramillo2, H. Chun3, L. Black4, G. Dann5, M. Anastario6
1Belize Defense Force, Ladyville, Belize, 2Consultant, Belize City, Belize, 3Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program, San Diego, United States, 4Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, United States, 5Cicatelli Associates Inc., New York City, United States, 6Cicatelli Associates Inc., New York, United States
Background: It is estimated that 2.4% of the residents of Belize are living with HIV or AIDS. The prevalence of both HIV infection and behavioral correlates of infection are unknown in the Belize Defense Force. While a nation's armed forces are often highly structured, a factor which lends well to representative sampling, it can be particularly difficult to study HIV infection and sexual risk behavior among military personnel. This study is an update on a currently ongoing baseline data collection effort to determine the prevalence of HIV infection, risk behaviors, and correlates of risk in the BDF.
Methods: Participants were selected using systematic random sampling aimed at obtaining a sample of 351 participants. Thus far, 234 samples have been collected. After consenting to participation, a blood sample was drawn for serological testing using the test algorithm of the National AIDS Program/Ministry of Health. Behavioral surveys were administered using Audio-Computer Assisted Self Interview (ACASI) software and asked questions about behaviors during the past 12 months.
Results: Ninety one percent of the sample was male. The prevalence of HIV infection was 1.2%. Among those reporting sexual activity, the average number of partners over the past 12 months was 2.9 partners. Eighty one percent of men reported penetrative vaginal sex in the preceding 30 days. Among these, 60% never used a condom. Nineteen percent did not use condoms during their last sexual encounter with a commercial sex worker. Only 1 participant reported having ever injected a drug or popped skin with a needle to take a drug. Aside from the study, 72% report having ever been tested for HIV.
Conclusions: Current results suggest that personnel would benefit from behavior change programs targeting sexual risk behavior and condom use. Final study results will determine factors underlying infection and risk behavior.
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