The role of mobility in sexual risk behaviour and HIV acquisition among sub-Saharan African migrants residing in two European cities

Sonia Dias, Ana Gama, Jasna Loos, Luis Roxo, Daniel Simoes, Christiana Nöstlinger

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Migrants from high endemic countries accounted for 18% of newly diagnosed HIV infections in Europe in 2017. Knowledge on the link between HIV risk and post-migration travels and their impact on HIV acquisition is scarce, but critical to inform prevention. This study aims to explore risky sexual behaviour and HIV-acquisition among sub-Saharan African migrants, and to assess post-migration mobility as a determinant of sexual risk behaviour.


Data from two cross-sectional bio-behavioural surveys to assess HIV-prevalence conducted in Lisbon and Antwerp were analysed to explore migration-related characteristics, travel patterns, and sexual risk taking in the host country and abroad. Bi- and multivariate associations were estimated through adjusted odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals; multivariable logistic regression determined factors associated with condomless sexual intercourse.


Among N = 1508 participants above 18 years (58% males), 68% travelled post-migration (49.2% reported intercourse abroad). The overall proportion of condomless sex at last sexual intercourse was high (68.1%). The odds of condomless sex in the host country was five times higher when the last sexual intercourse abroad was also condomless [OR:5.32; 95% CI:2.98-9.25]. About half of the travellers reported concurrency, i.e. a regular partner in the host country while having other sexual partners abroad. Almost three percent of the participants reported being HIV+, but 5% had a reactive HIV test-result, with similar proportions among travellers and non-travellers. Also, among the n = 75 participants with reactive HIV test-results, condomless sex occurred (n = 40) and was associated with mobility.


Sub-Saharan African migrants are mobile and engage in sexual risk behaviours in the countries of residence and while travelling, increasing risk of post-migration HIV-acquisition. A transnational perspective on HIV prevention and sexual health promotion is needed for effectively reducing migrants' HIV risk related to their mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0228584
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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