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Background: Perceiving a personal risk for HIV infection is considered important for engaging in HIV prevention behaviour and often targeted in HIV prevention interventions. However, there is limited evidence for assumed causal relationships between risk perception and prevention behaviour and the degree to which change in behaviour is attributable to change in risk perception is poorly understood. This study examines longitudinal relationships between changes in HIV risk perception and in condom use and the public health importance of changing risk perception. Methods: Data on sexually active, HIV-negative adults (15-54 years) were taken from four surveys of a general-population open-cohort study in Manicaland, Zimbabwe (2003-2013). Increasing condom use between surveys was modelled in generalised estimating equations dependent on change in risk perception between surveys. Accounting for changes in other socio-demographic and behavioural factors, regression models examined the bi-directional relationship between risk perception and condom use, testing whether increasing risk perception is associated with increasing condom use and whether increasing condom use is associated with decreasing risk perception. Population attributable fractions (PAFs) were estimated. Results: One thousand, nine hundred eighty-eight males and 3715 females participated in ≥2 surveys, contributing 8426 surveys pairs. Increasing risk perception between two surveys was associated with higher odds of increasing condom use (males: adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.39, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.85-2.28, PAF = 3.39%; females: aOR = 1.41 [1.06-1.88], PAF = 6.59%), adjusting for changes in other socio-demographic and behavioural factors. Those who decreased risk perception were also more likely to increase condom use (males: aOR = 1.76 [1.12-2.78]; females: aOR = 1.23 [0.93-1.62]) compared to those without change in risk perception. Conclusions: Results on associations between changing risk perception and increasing condom use support hypothesised effects of risk perception on condom use and effects of condom use on risk perception (down-adjusting risk perception after adopting condom use). However, low proportions of change in condom use were attributable to changing risk perception, underlining the range of factors influencing HIV prevention behaviour and the need for comprehensive approaches to HIV prevention.
Schaefer, R., Thomas, R., Maswera, R., Kadzura, N., Nyamukapa, C., & Gregson, S. (2020). Relationships between changes in HIV risk perception and condom use in East Zimbabwe 2003-2013: Population-based longitudinal analyses. BMC Public Health, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-08815-1