The Sunday News
Tadiwa Nyatanga-Pfupa, Communications Officer for NAC
Multiple and concurrent partnerships (MCPs) occur when a person is involved in more than one sexual partnership at the same time. These concurrent partnerships enable HIV to spread quickly within sexual networks.
A sexual network is a group of people who are connected to one another through direct or indirect sexual contact.
A number of people could knowingly or unknowingly be living in a sexual network. Research has suggested that multiple sexual partners and concurrent partnerships particularly, are key drivers in the spread of HIV.
The questions you need to ask yourself, dear reader, are:
-Am I in a sexual network?
-How many sexual partners do I have?
-How many sexual partners do my partners have?
It is very difficult, if not impossible to tell how many other partners your partner has. Worse still, how many other partners your partner’s partners have. Food for thought!
Factors that contribute to MCPs include poverty, community or tribal customs such as polygamy, gender norms, and poor communication between sexual partners.
Women find themselves in MCPs via cross-generational sex, that is when they are in relationships with men much older than them. Some get into MCPs just to feel good or for material gains. Whatever the reason, it is risky to be in a MCP.
Transactional sex or commercial sex is of particular concern because research has shown that a large age difference between adolescent girls and their partners has been linked to increased risk of HIV infection in girls and young women. Adolescents have a more difficult time negotiating condom use with older partners and during transactional sex.
While there is considerable evidence of condom use for HIV prevention during casual or initial sex encounters, people tend not to use condoms as the relationship progresses. Which is wrong. This could even apply to marriage. People can be in a marriage but in a sex network as well because one of the parties to the marriage could be in relationships with people who have other relationships. Women have been finding it very difficult to negotiate for condom use as most traditions and religions dictate that women should be submissive to men.
While sex networks are strongly discouraged, they do exist. Whether one knows if they are in a sex network or not, they need to protect themselves, and other people within their network.
Delayed sexual contact is strongly advised for all young people until they get married. Those that are in relationships should stick to one faithful partner. Correct and consistent condom use is a must every time one engages in casual sex or when one does not know his or her status, or has sex with someone whose HIV status they do not know.
It is very important for each and every person to know their HIV status. Get tested for HIV and know your status. Those that are HIV-positive should use protection every time they have sex, even with another HIV positive partner to avoid the possibility of getting reinfected.
Those on treatment should take medication as prescribed by health personnel.
Women should stand up for what is good for their health and negotiate for safe sex or refuse to engage in risky sex.
Individuals who have multiple sexual partners increase their risk of contracting HIV as each new relationship introduces another pathway for HIV transmission. Keep yourselves out of sex networks!
Protect yourself and your partner by getting tested for HIV regularly. Use protection every time you have sex if you do not know your status or your partner’s status.