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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Drexel: Characterizing Relationships and Postpartum HIV Risk Among Adolescent, Young Adult, and Adult Women in South Africa

A team of researchers from Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH), the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, including DSPH alum Ms. Luwam Gebrekristos, led by Dr. Ali Groves, assistant professor of community health and prevention at DSPH,  characterized sexual relationships in pregnancy and human immunodeficiency virust (HIV) risk behavior in the first 14 weeks postpartum among adolescent (<18 years), young adult (18-24 years), and adult women (>24 years) in South Africa.

Using bivariate and multivariate statistical tests, the researchers identified major differences in relationships and HIV risk across the different age groups. Adolescents were in less stable, more power-inequitable relationships with high-risk partners than young adult and adult women. Young adult women’s relationships were more stable; however, they were significantly more likely to return to sex and report physical intimate partner violence in the early postpartum period than adult women.

The research suggests that tailored combination intervention strategies are needed to account for differences in relationships and HIV risk across age groups. Adolescent mothers may benefit from psychosocial interventions that cultivate empowerment and build healthy relationship skills during the transition to parenthood. Young adult women may benefit from interventions that delay early postpartum unprotected sex and prevent or mitigate the effects of intimate partner violence. All women, regardless of age group, may benefit from interventions that increase access to pre-exposure prophylaxis and partner’s access to HIV testing during the perinatal period.

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