Cell Phones, Sexual Behaviors and HIV Prevalence in Rakai, Uganda: A Cross Sectional Analysis of Longitudinal Data

Fred Nalugoda, Philip Kreniske, Sarah Hofer, Xiaobo Zhong, Ying Wei, Stephanie A. Grilo, Ivy Chen, Ssebaggala D. Kigozi, Godfrey Kigozi, Tom Lutalo, Robert Ssekubugu, Hadijja Nakawooya, Joseph Kagaayi, Larry W. Chang, Maria J. Wawer, Ronald H. Gray, Qianshu Wang, John S. Santelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Cell phones have increased communication and connection across the globe and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa—with potential consequences for the HIV epidemic. We examined the association among ownership of cell phones, sexual behaviors (number of sexual partners, alcohol use before sex, inconsistent condom use), and HIV prevalence. Data were from four rounds (2010–2016) of the Rakai Community Cohort Study (N = 58,275). Sexual behaviors and HIV prevalence were compared between people who owned a cell phone to people who did not own a cell phone. We stratified analysis by younger (15–24 years) and older (25+ years) age groups and by gender. Using logistic regression and after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, we found cell phone ownership was independently associated with increased odds of having two or more sexual partners in the past 12 months across age and gender groups (young men AOR 1.67, 95% CI 1.47–1.90; young women AOR 1.28 95% CI 1.08–1.53; older men AOR 1.54 95% CI 1.41–1.69; older women AOR 1.44 95% CI 1.26–1.65). Interestingly, young men who owned cell phones had decreased odds of using condoms inconsistently (AOR 0.66, 95% CI 0.57–0.75). For young women, cell phone ownership was associated with increased odds of using alcohol before sex (AOR 1.38 95% CI 1.17–1.63) and increased odds of inconsistent condom use (AOR 1.40, 95% 1.17–1.67). After adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, only young women who owned cell phones had increased odds of being HIV positive (AOR 1.27 95% CI 1.07–1.50). This association was not mediated by sexual behaviors (Adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics and sexual behaviors AOR 1.24, 95% CI 1.05–1.46). While cell phone ownership appears to be associated with increased HIV risk for young women, we also see a potential opportunity for future cell phone-based health interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1574-1584
Number of pages11
JournalAIDS and behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Cell phones
  • HIV prevalence
  • Sexual behaviors
  • Sub-Saharan Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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