Pregnancy and HIV-1 incidence in 178 married couples with discordant HIV-1 serostatus: additional experience at an HIV-1 counselling centre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo


correspondence R.W. Ryder, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, P.O Box 208034, New Haven, CT 06520–8034, USA. E-mail:


Summary To determine the effect of an HIV-1 counselling programme on rates of HIV-1 infection and pregnancy in a large group of married couples in Kinshasa, DRC with discordant HIV-1 infection status, we conducted a baseline cross-sectional HIV-1 seroprevalence study in two large Kinshasa businesses. We identified 178 married couples (mean duration of marriage = 12.3 years) with discordant HIV-1 serostatus (92 M+F-/86 M-F+). Seroincidence and pregnancy rates were observed during 310 person-years of follow-up (PYFU). The 92 M+F- couples had an HIV-1 incidence of 3.7/100 PYFU and a pregnancy rate of 8.6/100. The 86 M-F+ couples had a pregnancy rate of 6.8/100 PYFU and an HIV-1 incidence of 6.8/100 PYFU. Couples seeking to have children but minimize their HIV-1 transmission risk frequently had unprotected sex only during the woman's perceived monthly fertility period. This strategy resulted in the birth of 24 live-born children and only one (4%; 95% CL = 0.0–21.6%) new HIV infection in couples having a child. Only 1 of 6 women who developed HIV-1 infection (16.7%; 95 C.L. = 0–40.4%) became pregnant. While seronegative men had more extramarital sex once their wives' positive HIV-1 infection status became known, most of these episodes involved safe sex. Divorce was rare. This study provides additional information concerning issues of safe sex in married couples with discordant HIV-1 infection status, the dynamics of HIV transmission within couples and the effect of serostatus notification on the marriage and on intramarital and extramarital sexual behaviour in Kinshasa, Congo.