Multiple and concurrent partnerships (MCPs) occur when a person is involved in more than one sexual partnership at the same time. These concurrent partnerships enable HIV and other sexually transmitted infections to spread quickly within large sexual networks. Several case studies have demonstrated that even modest reductions in MCPs may substantially reduce HIV transmission in a community. Youth in many settings report having multiple and concurrent partners. Factors that contribute to MCPs among young people may include lack of communication and dissatisfaction in a relationship, certain cultural and social norms, and poverty. Young women's involvement in MCPs via cross-generational or transactional sex is of particular concern because research has shown that a large age difference between adolescent girls and their partners has been linked to increased risk of HIV infection in girls and young women. Also, adolescents have a more difficult time negotiating condom use with older partners and during transactional sex. Programs in settings where MCPs are common should promote condom use and address the structural drivers of concurrent partnerships, ensuring rights-based approaches to information and services. More research is needed on young people's perceptions of and attitudes toward MCPs in the context of HIV/AIDS and pregnancy prevention.

Multiple and Concurrent Sexual Partnerships in Southern Africa: A Ten Country Research Report

This report provides an overview of 10 qualitative studies conducted by Soul City Regional Programme partner organizations in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The primary goal of the research was to understand the views of both youth and adults on multiple and concurrent sexual relationships and their effect on the HIV pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa (2008).

AIDSTAR-One: Multiple and Concurrent Sexual Partnerships

This reference provides background information on the relationship between multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships and the spread of HIV. The page has summaries of numerous articles containing research findings on the link between MCPs and HIV transmission in developing countries. Links to MCP-related reports and briefs, program overviews, tools and curricula, and related prevention activities are also provided (2011).

Soul Beat Africa - Issue 119 - HIV Prevention - Multiple Concurrent Partnerships (MCP)

This issue of The Soul Beat looks at HIV Prevention with a specific focus on Multiple Concurrent Partnerships (MCP), which have been identified as one of the key drivers of the HIV epidemic in southern Africa. The newsletter offers strategic thinking documents, program experiences, and materials related to MCP and the role communication can play in promoting partner reduction, faithfulness, and safer sex within these relationships (2008).

Concurrent Sexual Partnerships amongst Young Adults in South Africa: Challenges for HIV Prevention Communication

This report examines concurrent sexual relationships among young adults ages 20-30 in South Africa and provides recommendations for HIV/AIDS communication. Data in the report show that many young people lack awareness of the risks of high turnover of sexual partners, casual sex, and sexual partner concurrency (2007).

Evaluating the Trusted Partner Campaign in Four Sub-Saharan African Countries

This document summarizes the findings of an evaluation of the Trusted Partner Campaign in Lesotho, Mozambique, Uganda, and Zambia implemented by Population Services International (PSI). The campaign used radio, TV, and print media to improve consistent condom use. Cross-sectional surveys of youth ages 15-24 suggest that exposure to this campaign was associated with consistent condom use in Mozambique, but not elsewhere (2009).

Why Multiple Sexual Partners?

In this article from The Lancet, James D. Shelton examines behavioral components of multiple concurrent sexual partnerships, identified as the driver of HIV infection in southern and eastern Africa (2009).

The Scrutinize Campaign: A Youth HIV Prevention Campaign Addressing Multiple and Concurrent Sexual Partnerships

Victor Scrutinize was the animated star of the Scrutinize Campaign, a year-long series of HIV prevention ads launched on South African television in June 2008. Irreverent and humorous, with strong, colorful visuals, the campaign's ads were markedly different from previous South African HIV prevention campaigns for youth (2009).

Addressing Multiple And Concurrent Sexual Partnerships In Generalized HIV Epidemics

To support the expansion of MCP programming, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Technical Working Group (TWG) for General Population and Youth Prevention, in collaboration with AIDSTAR-One, convened a technical consultation in Washington, DC, October 29–30, 2008, entitled Multiple and Concurrent Sexual Partnerships in Generalized HIV Epidemics. The objectives of this meeting were to (1) deepen understanding of the role of MCP in the spread of HIV and (2) share emerging programmatic approaches and build consensus on promising strategies to address MCP. The report surveys what we know about MCP, what we still need to learn, and what we can do now to advance efforts to address MCP (2009). 

Addressing Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships in Southern Africa: Developing Guidance for Bold Action

This report emerges from a two-day meeting on "Addressing MCP in Southern Africa: Developing Guidance for Bold Actions." The meeting brought together approximately 40 representatives from various organizations working in the southern Africa region with the aim of establishing a common vision and agenda to guide interventions and strategies addressing multiple and concurrent partnerships (2009).

Multiple Concurrent Partnerships and the Church: Assessing the Attitudes and Perceptions of Community Leaders of Faith

This report shares findings from a survey that sought to access churchgoers' perceptions about multiple concurrent partnerships and the church's response to these relationships, with a view that church leaders must understand the attitudes and perceptions surrounding these relationships in order to develop effective interventions (2009).

Case Study: Secret Lovers Kill

This case study describes Makhwapheni Uyabulala, or “Secret Lovers Kill,” Swaziland’s national media campaign focusing on the HIV risk of multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships. The campaign promotes HIV prevention by broadcasting behavior change messages in a society where discussing multiple and concurrent partnerships is taboo (2009).

Case Study: Club Risky Business

To address multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships and other drivers of HIV in Zambia, Club Risky Business, a fictional mini-series, and its associated One Love Kwasila! multimedia campaign encouraged viewers to protect themselves and their partners by "cutting their connections to HIV." Access the interactive AIDSTAR-One case study to learn more about how the program challenged viewers to question—and ultimately reduce—their overlapping sexual partnerships (2010).

OneLove Regional Campaign

The OneLove Campaign strives to reduce HIV incidence in Southern Africa by reducing multiple concurrent partnerships via mass media, face-to-face education, social mobilization, and advocacy. The campaign is intended to spark public discussion and debate about the roles of culture and gender in promoting risky behaviors such as MCPs and to promote safer health behaviors.