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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Cross-sectional assessment of prevalence and correlates of blood-borne and sexually-transmitted infections among Afghan National Army recruits

Catherine S Todd1*, Abdul Nasir2, G Farooq Mansoor2, Sayed M Sahibzada2, Linda L Jagodzinski3, Farzana Salimi4, M Naim Khateri5, Braden R Hale6, R Vincent Barthel7 and Paul T Scott8

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Columbia University, 622 West 168th Street PH 16-69, New York, NY, 10032, USA

2 Health Protection and Research Organization, House P-860, Street 10, Taimany, Kabul, Afghanistan

3 U.S. Military HIV Research Program, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, 503 Robert Grant Avenue, Silver Spring, MD, 20910, USA

4 Afghan Public Health Institute, Ministry of Public Health, Masoud Circle, Kabul, Afghanistan

5 Ministry of Defense, Shash Darak, Kabul, Afghanistan

6 Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program, Naval Health Research Center, Naval Health Research Center, 140 Sylvester Rd, San Diego, CA, 92106-3521, USA

7 U.S. NAMRU-3, Ramses Extension Street near Abbasia Fever Hospital, Cairo, Egypt

8 U.S. Military HIV Research Program, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, 503 Robert Grant Avenue, Silver Spring, MD, 20910, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2012, 12:196  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-196

Published: 21 August 2012

Abstract

Background

Few data are available in Afghanistan to shape national military force health practices, particularly with regard to sexually-transmitted infections (STIs). We measured prevalence and correlates of HIV, syphilis, herpes simplex 2 virus (HSV-2), and hepatitis C virus (HCV) among Afghan National Army (ANA) recruits.

Methods

A cross-sectional sample of male ANA recruits aged 18–35 years were randomly selected at the Kabul Military Training Center between February 2010 and January 2011. Participants completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire and serum-based rapid testing for syphilis and hepatitis C virus antibody on-site; HIV and HSV-2 screening, and confirmatory testing were performed off-site. Prevalence of each infection was calculated and logistic regression analysis performed to identify correlates.

Results

Of 5313 recruits approached, 4750 consented to participation. Participants had a mean age of 21.8 years (SD±3.8), 65.5% had lived outside Afghanistan, and 44.3% had no formal education. Few reported prior marijuana (16.3%), alcohol (5.3%), or opiate (3.4%) use. Of sexually active recruits (58.7%, N = 2786), 21.3% reported paying women for sex and 21.3% reported sex with males. Prevalence of HIV (0.063%, 95% CI: 0.013- 0.19), syphilis (0.65%, 95% CI: 0.44 – 0.93), and HCV (0.82%, 95% CI: 0.58 – 1.12) were quite low. Prevalence of HSV-2 was 3.03% (95% CI: 2.56 - 3.57), which was independently associated with age (Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR) = 1.04, 95% CI: 1.00 - 1.09) and having a television (socioeconomic marker) (AOR = 1.46, 95% CI: 1.03 – 2.05).

Conclusion

Though prevalence of HIV, HCV, syphilis, and HSV-2 was low, sexual risk behaviors and intoxicant use were present among a substantial minority, indicating need for prevention programming. Formative work is needed to determine a culturally appropriate approach for prevention programming to reduce STI risk among Afghan National Army troops.

Keywords:
Afghanistan; Military populations; HIV; Sexual risk behavior; Drug use