Sexuality in patients with human immunodeficiency virus at Embhuleni Hospital in Mpumalanga province
Objectives: This study explored issues of sexuality in people living with AIDS who were on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
Design: This was a descriptive quantitative study. Data were collected with an administered questionnaire and entered in Excel®. Statistical analysis included frequency tables, summary statistics and 95% confidence intervals.
Setting and subjects: The respondents were purposively sampled from the 850 patients attending the antiretroviral clinic at Embhuleni Hospital in Mpumalanga province.
Outcome measures: The questionnaire included questions on sexual practices, number of partners, sexual experience and fertility wishes, comparing respondents’ experience before and after HAART.
Results: There was a response rate of 100%, with 102 questionnaires completed. There was a significant difference between the responses to questions on sexual desire, sexual performance, sexual enjoyment and satisfaction regarding frequency of intercourse before and after HAART. Respondents reported a better sexual experience before HAART (t = 2.4387, p-value = 0.0165). There was a statistically significant difference between the number of partners before and after initiation of HAART (p-value = 0.000). Although 96% of respondents rated condom use as being very important, 11% never used condoms during sex and 21% indicated that they had had unprotected sex in the previous six months. Eighteen per cent of respondents said it was very important for them to have a child and 20% were planning to have a child in the future. A quarter of respondents had not disclosed their HIV status to their partners. The majority (95%) of respondents indicated that it was very important to them that health workers discussed their sexual needs with them.
Conclusion: Sexuality in HIV is complex, with components described as the “Ps” of sexuality: practices, partners, pleasure, pressure and pain, procreation and power. In this study, participants reported a better sexual experience before HAART. Healthcare professionals need to develop the skills to discuss sexuality, intimacy and fertility wishes with patients. This
discussion will enhance healthcare professionals’ understanding of atients’ experiences of their illness and should allow for a more effective patient-centred approach to care.
Keywords: sexuality, sexual experience, HIV, HAART, reproductive health, rural