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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - PloS one
Title Poverty, food insufficiency and HIV infection and sexual behaviour among young rural Zimbabwean women
Author(s)
Volume 10
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
URL http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0115290
Abstract
Background

Despite a recent decline, Zimbabwe still has the fifth highest adult HIV prevalence in the world at 14.7%; 56% of the population are currently living in extreme poverty.

Design

Cross-sectional population-based survey of 18–22 year olds, conducted in 30 communities in south-eastern Zimbabwe in 2007.

Objective

To examine whether the risk of HIV infection among young rural Zimbabwean women is associated with socio-economic position and whether different socio-economic domains, including food sufficiency, might be associated with HIV risk in different ways.

Methods

Eligible participants completed a structured questionnaire and provided a finger-prick blood sample tested for antibodies to HIV and HSV-2. The relationship between poverty and HIV was explored for three socio-economic domains: ability to afford essential items; asset wealth; food sufficiency. Analyses were performed to examine whether these domains were associated with HIV infection or risk factors for infection among young women, and to explore which factors might mediate the relationship between poverty and HIV.

Results

2593 eligible females participated in the survey and were included in the analyses. Overall HIV prevalence among these young females was 7.7% (95% CI: 6.7–8.7); HSV-2 prevalence was 11.2% (95% CI: 9.9–12.4). Lower socio-economic position was associated with lower educational attainment, earlier marriage, increased risk of depression and anxiety disorders and increased reporting of higher risk sexual behaviours such as earlier sexual debut, more and older sexual partners and transactional sex. Young women reporting insufficient food were at increased risk of HIV infection and HSV-2.

Conclusions

This study provides evidence from Zimbabwe that among young poor women, economic need and food insufficiency are associated with the adoption of unsafe behaviours. Targeted structural interventions that aim to tackle social and economic constraints including insufficient food should be developed and evaluated alongside behaviour and biomedical interventions, as a component of HIV prevention programming and policy.

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