Male partners of young women in Uganda: Understanding their relationships and use of HIV testing

Substantial concern exists about the high risk of sexually transmitted HIV to adolescent
girls and young women (AGYW, ages 15–24) in Eastern and Southern Africa. Yet limited
research has been conducted with AGYW’s male sexual partners regarding their perspectives
on relationships and strategies for mitigating HIV risk. We sought to fill this gap in order
to inform the DREAMS Partnership and similar HIV prevention programs in Uganda.
We conducted 94 in-depth interviews, from April-June 2017, with male partners of AGYW in
three districts: Gulu, Mukono, and Sembabule. Men were recruited at community venues
identified as potential transmission areas, and via female partners enrolled in DREAMS.
Analyses focused on men’s current and recent partnerships and HIV service use.
Most respondents (80%) were married and 28 years old on average. Men saw partner concurrency
as pervasive, and half described their own current multiple partners. Having married
in their early 20s, over time most men continued to seek out AGYW as new partners,
regardless of their own age. Relationships were highly fluid, with casual short-term partnerships
becoming more formalized, and more formalized partnerships characterized by periods
of separation and outside partnerships. Nearly all men reported recent HIV testing and
described testing at distinct relationship points (e.g., when deciding to continue a relationship/get
married, or when reuniting with a partner after a separation). Testing often stemmed
from distrust of partner behavior, and an HIV-negative status served to validate respondents’
current relationship practices.

Ann Gottert1 *, Julie Pulerwitz1 , Godfrey Siu2 , Anne Katahoire2 , Jerry Okal3 , Florence Ayebare2 , Nrupa Jani1 , Pamela Keilig1 , Sanyukta Mathur1