The Science of Prevention (S Kalichman, Section Editor)

Current HIV/AIDS Reports

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 103-110

First online:

Intersecting Epidemics Among Pregnant Women: Alcohol Use, Interpersonal Violence, and HIV Infection in South Africa

  • Beth S. RussellAffiliated withHuman Development & Family Studies, University of Connecticut Email author 
  • , Lisa A. EatonAffiliated withHuman Development & Family Studies, University of Connecticut
  • , Petal Petersen-WilliamsAffiliated withAlcohol and Drug Abuse Research Unit, Medical Research Council

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A critical factor for understanding negative health outcomes is acknowledging the synergistic quality that clusters of health problems create. An important step in addressing clusters of health problems involves gaining an awareness of the contextual factors that connect them. This paper considers the intersection of 3 mutually reinforcing health problems: alcohol use, interpersonal violence (IPV), and HIV infection among pregnant women residing in South Africa. We explore how SAVA (substance abuse, violence and AIDS) - a syndemics related theory - underscores the dire need to intervene in various areas of psycho-social health and general well-being. Based on World Health Organization data, we highlight the remarkably high rates of alcohol use, IPV, and HIV infection among South African women compared with women residing in other countries around the world. We conclude by highlighting the need for improved recognition of the intersection of these epidemics and for improved surveillance of the prevalence of alcohol use among pregnant women. Finally, based on the literature reviewed, we provide recommendations for future interventions.


Pregnancy Intimate partner violence HIV Alcohol consumption HIV infection Substance abuse, violence and AIDS (SAVA) South Africa Alcohol use among pregnant women HIV transmission HIV infection and pregnancy Prevention