High-risk sex and displacement among refugees and surrounding populations in 10 countries: The need for integrating interventions

Paul B. Spiegel, Marian Schilperoord, Maysoon Dahab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Introduction: Between 2004 and 2012, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees conducted behavioural surveillance surveys in 27 separate communities in 10 countries. Methods: Random systematic or two-stage cluster sampling was used among participants of age 15-49 years, using a modified standard questionnaire. We conducted descriptive data analysis and multivariable logistic regression to identify factors independently associated with multiple sexual partnerships. Results: Of 27 sites surveyed comprising 24 219 individuals, 11 refugee and surrounding communities were paired. Recent displacement comprised less than 10% of participants. Visiting neighbouring communities varied from 8.6 to 74.4%. Multiple sexual partnerships varied from 2.7% in Sudan to 32.5% in Tanzania. Condom use during last sex was low in most of the communities (<5%). The prevalence of forced sex was similar in paired sites, with intimate partner violence being the most frequent, ranging between 1.0 and 4.6% in camps and 0.8 and 3.6% in communities, with the exception of Nepal (10.8 and 9.8%). Being away from home for more than 1 month and having lived in community for less than 12 months was associated with multiple partnerships in six and five of 16 sites, respectively. Conclusion: In the largest study of paired sites of refugees in protracted refugee camps and surrounding nationals, data showed no consistent difference in levels of risky sexual behaviour and there was much variation among the different groups. The prevention strategies should be targeted in a highly integrated manner for both the communities. Forced sex among women was reported at similar levels among refugees and nationals, with intimate partner violence being the most common. These findings should reduce stigma and discrimination against refugees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-771
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 13 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioural surveillance surveys
  • HIV
  • Multiple partners
  • Refugees
  • Surrounding populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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