BACKGROUND: Alcohol and other drug (AOD) use among poor Black African and Coloured women in South Africa compounds their sexual risk for HIV. Given South Africa's history of ethnic disparities, ethnic differences in sex risk profiles may exist that should be taken into account when planning HIV risk reduction interventions. This paper aims to describe ethnic differences in AOD use and AOD-related sexual risks for HIV among vulnerable women from Cape Town, South Africa.
METHOD: Cross-sectional data on 720 AOD-using women (324 Black African; 396 Coloured) recruited from poor communities in Cape Town were examined for ethnic differences in AOD use and AOD-related sexual risk behavior.
RESULTS: Ethnic differences in patterns of AOD use were found; with self-reported drug problems, heavy episodic drinking and methamphetamine use being most prevalent among Coloured women and cannabis use being most likely among Black African women. However, more than half of Black African women reported drug-related problems and more than a third tested positive for recent methamphetamine use. More than a third of women reported being AOD-impaired and having unprotected sex during their last sexual encounter. Coloured women had four-fold greater odds of reporting that their last sexual episode was AOD-impaired and unprotected than Black African women. In addition, close to one in two women reported that their sexual partner was AOD-impaired at last sex, with Coloured women having three-fold greater odds of reporting that their partner was AOD-impaired at last sex than Black African women.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings support the need to develop and test AOD risk reduction interventions for women from both ethnic groups. In addition, findings point to the need for tailored interventions that target the distinct profiles of AOD use and AOD-related sex risks for HIV among Black African and Coloured women.