Sexual liaisons between older men and younger women have been linked to greater risk of HIV acquisition. This study aims to (1) identify psychosocial and behavioral factors associated with age-discordant (partner ≥5 years) versus age-concordant partnerships (−1< partner <5) and (2) examine the association between partner age discordance and young South African women's sexual behavior.
We used generalized estimating equations to analyze responses from 656 sexually experienced women (aged 13–20 years) from rural Mpumalanga province.
Partner age discordance was associated with greater odds of reporting both more frequent sex [adjusted odd ratio (aOR) = 1.77; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.20 to 2.60] and having a partner with concurrent partnerships (aOR = 1.77; 95% CI: 1.22 to 2.57). Age-discordant partnerships were associated with greater odds of casual partnerships (aOR = 1.50; 95% CI: 1.06 to 2.13), having a partner with concurrent partnerships (aOR = 1.71; 95% CI: 1.19 to 2.46), and more frequent intercourse (ie, having sex at least 2 or 3 times per month) (aOR = 2.04; 95% CI: 1.39 to 3.00). They were associated with lower odds of reporting condom use at last sex (aOR = 0.70; 95% CI: 0.50 to 0.98) and always using condoms (aOR = 0.53; 95% CI: 0.32 to 0.88) in age-discordant partnerships.
Our findings suggest that a history of age-discordant partnerships, and to a lesser extent having an age-discordant partner, is linked to HIV risk among young South African women; however, the link between partner age discordance and HIV risk may be more strongly related to the characteristics of age-discordant partnerships than to the characteristics of young women who form such partnerships.