Negotiating sexual agreements in combination with couples’ voluntary HIV counseling and testing (CVCT) may help further reduce HIV transmission in Zambian concordant HIV-negative couples (CNC). Though CVCT has been shown to reduce HIV transmission in CNC by 47%, approximately half of residual infections occur in this group. We developed a “Strengthening Our Vows” video session to foster communication and negotiation of explicit sexual agreements to reduce concurrent sexual exposures and prevent HIV transmission to the spouse due to unprotected, extramarital sex. CNC were recruited through CVCT services at five clinics in Lusaka and Ndola in 2016. Enrolled CNC attending the facilitated group video sessions were encouraged to discuss sexual agreements at home and return 1–2 weeks later for follow-up assessment. One-fourth of the 580 CNC returning reported a history of extramarital partners and/or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) prior to enrollment. More than 95% reported a friendly, supportive 15–60 min negotiation culminating in an agreement to remain monogamous or disclose sexual contacts and use condoms together until a repeat HIV test 30 days after an outside sexual exposure. Two-thirds of participants identified at least one threat to adherence of their agreements including alcohol use, financial pressures, travel, discord in the home, and post-partum or menstrual abstinence. CNC negotiated explicit sexual agreements to avoid exposure to HIV through concurrent partnerships and protect the spouse in the event of an outside sexual contact. Open communication was a consistent theme to facilitate mutual protective efforts. Long-term follow-up of HIV/STI incidence is ongoing to assess the impact of these agreements.
Trial registration This sub-study is part of a trial retrospectively registered on ClinicalTrials.gov (Identifier: NCT02744586) on April 20, 2016.