Population mobility associated with higher risk sexual behaviour in eastern African communities participating in a Universal Testing and Treatment trial

Carol S. Camlin, Adam Akullian, Torsten B. Neilands, Monica Getahun, Patrick Eyul, Irene Maeri, Sarah Ssali, Elvin Geng, Monica Gandhi, Craig R. Cohen, Moses R. Kamya, Thomas Odeny, Elizabeth A. Bukusi, Edwin D. Charlebois

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30 Scopus citations


Introduction: There are significant knowledge gaps concerning complex forms of mobility emergent in sub-Saharan Africa, their relationship to sexual behaviours, HIV transmission, and how sex modifies these associations. This study, within an ongoing test-and-treat trial (SEARCH, NCT01864603), sought to measure effects of diverse metrics of mobility on behaviours, with attention to gender. Methods: Cross-sectional data were collected in 2016 from 1919 adults in 12 communities in Kenya and Uganda, to examine mobility (labour/non-labour-related travel), migration (changes of residence over geopolitical boundaries) and their associations with sexual behaviours (concurrent/higher risk partnerships), by region and sex. Multilevel mixed-effects logistic regression models, stratified by sex and adjusted for clustering by community, were fitted to examine associations of mobility with higher-risk behaviours, in past 2 years/past 6 months, controlling for key covariates. Results: The population was 45.8% male and 52.4% female, with mean age 38.7 (median 37, IQR: 17); 11.2% had migrated in the past 2 years. Migration varied by region (14.4% in Kenya, 11.5% in southwestern and 1.7% in eastern and Uganda) and sex (13.6% of men and 9.2% of women). Ten per cent reported labour-related travel and 45.9% non-labour-related travel in past 6 months—and varied by region and sex: labour-related mobility was more common in men (18.5%) than women (2.9%); non-labour-related mobility was more common in women (57.1%) than men (32.6%). In 2015 to 2016, 24.6% of men and 6.6% of women had concurrent sexual partnerships; in past 6 months, 21.6% of men and 5.4% of women had concurrent partnerships. Concurrency in 2015 to 2016 was more strongly associated with migration in women [aRR = 2.0, 95% CI(1.1 to 3.7)] than men [aRR = 1.5, 95% CI(1.0 to 2.2)]. Concurrency in past 6 months was more strongly associated with labour-related mobility in women [aRR = 2.9, 95% CI(1.0 to 8.0)] than men [aRR = 1.8, 95% CI(1.2 to 2.5)], but with non-labour-related mobility in men [aRR = 2.2, 95% CI(1.5 to 3.4)]. Conclusions: In rural eastern Africa, both longer-distance/permanent, and localized/shorter-term forms of mobility are associated with higher-risk behaviours, and are highly gendered: the HIV risks associated with mobility are more pronounced for women. Gender-specific interventions among mobile populations are needed to combat HIV in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere25115
JournalJournal of the International AIDS Society
Issue numberS4
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • HIV
  • geographic mobility
  • population dynamics
  • sexual behaviour
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • universal test and treat


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