African Journal of AIDS Research

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Love, lust and the emotional context of multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships among young Swazi adults

Allison Ruark, Lunga Dlamini, Nonhlanhla Mazibuko, Edward C Green, Caitlin Kennedy, Amy Nunn, Timothy Flanigan, Pamela J Surkan


Men and women in Swaziland who are engaged in multiple or concurrent sexual partnerships, or who have sexual partners with concurrent partners, face a very high risk of HIV infection. Ninety-four in-depth interviews were conducted with 28 Swazi men and women (14 of each sex) between the ages of 20 and 39 to explore participants’ sexual partnership histories, including motivations for sexual relationships which carried high HIV risk. Concurrency was normative, with most men and women having had at least one concurrent sexual partnership, and all women reporting having had at least one partner who had a concurrent partner. Men distinguished sexual partnerships that were just for sex from those that were considered to be ‘real relationships’, while women represented most of their relationships, even those which included significant financial support, as being based on love. Besides being motivated by love, concurrent sexual partnerships were described as motivated by a lack of sexual satisfaction, a desire for emotional support and/or as a means to exact revenge against a cheating partner. Social and structural factors were also found to play a role in creating an enabling environment for high-risk sexual partnerships. These factors included social pressure and norms; a lack of social trust; poverty and a desire for material goods; and geographical separation of partners.

Keywords: couple relationships, HIV/AIDS, HIV prevention, multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships, transactional sex

African Journal of AIDS Research 2014, 13(2): 133–143
AJOL African Journals Online