Original Research

Psychosocial and behavioural interventions towards HIV risk reduction for serodiscordant couples in Africa: A systematic review

Sibongile Mashaphu, Jonathan K. Burns, Gail E. Wyatt, Naseema B. Vawda
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 24 | a1136 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v24i0.1136 | © 2018 Sibongile Mashaphu, Jonathan K. Burns, Gail E. Wyatt, Vawda Naseema | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 May 2017 | Published: 05 June 2018

About the author(s)

Sibongile Mashaphu, Department of Psychiatry, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Jonathan K. Burns, University of Exeter, United Kingdom
Gail E. Wyatt, Department of Psychiatry and Bio-behavioural Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, United States
Naseema B. Vawda, Department of Behavioural Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Background: Sexual transmission of HIV frequently occurs in the context of a primary relationship between two partners; however, HIV prevention interventions generally focus on individuals at risk, rather than specifying couples as a unit of change and analysis, neglecting the crucial role that partners may play in sexual behaviour. This article reviews published scientific literature addressing couple-oriented HIV counselling and testing and other behavioural interventions using an online search for peer-reviewed papers.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted to evaluate what has been published on psychosocial interventions in HIV serodiscordant couples in Africa. Electronic databases were searched from January 1990 to December 2015. Quality assessment of included studies was conducted using the Systematic Appraisal of Quality in Observational Research tool.

Results: The electronic database searches initially retrieved 493 records; after cross-referencing, removing duplicates and applying strict inclusion and exclusion criteria, only eight papers were included in this review. All the studies under review showed that couples-focused counselling and educational programmes were associated with positive outcomes including reduced HIV transmission, reduced unprotected sex, increased rates of status disclosure and high levels of treatment adherence.

Conclusions: The literature on interventions for HIV serodiscordant couples is sparse. However, most interventions indicate that couples-focused interventions are effective in HIV risk reduction. In spite of the limited available data and repeated recommendations by different health authorities, couple-centred approaches to HIV prevention have not been implemented on a large scale.


HIV/AIDS; Africa; Serodiscordant (mixed; discordant); risk reduction intervention (therapy; counseling)


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Crossref Citations

1. Lived Experience and Risk Reduction Behaviors Among Sero-Negative Discordant Male Partners Living with HIV-Positive Women in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2019: A Qualitative Phenomenological Study
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