The Phambili study recruited 801 volunteers before it was halted and most of them were under 25 years old. Men and women were roughly equal in number.
Most of the men and women reported having one sexual partner and about half reported having unprotected penetrative sex.
About half of the men and women did not live with their main partner (were apart regularly).
Nearly half of the men also reported having casual, anonymous partners (with women this was about 11%) and about 40% said they drank or had drugs with sex (with women this was about 11%).
The only significant predictor of time to HIV infection was among men who had reported sexually transmitted infections at screening for the trial.
The latest HIV/AIDS statistics for South Africa, released by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi yesterday, show that prevalence is still far too high – 40% among women in their 30s.
This shows that national prevention campaigns are not making a significant impact.
At least Dr Motsoaledi is an honest minister, stating at the launch of the 2008 antenatal HIV and STD survey that: “The prevalence among women aged 25 and above (which is 29%) has stabilised at high and unacceptable levels.”
He admits South Africa seems to be losing the battle”. But he says the war is not lost.
These new figures show that prevention strategies are not protecting young women – new infections among teens rose from 13% in 2007 to 14% in 2008.
Professor Helen Rees, director of the Wits RHRU Unit, called for new prevention strategies at an HIV Clinicians Society meeting last week in Johannesburg.
RHRU is currently conducting research on keeping teenage girls in school since three studies have shown that keeping adolescents in school protects them against HIV.
Rees also suggested integrated male circumcision programmes as a prevention strategy for boys.