Poverty and HIV Prevalence
Abject poverty has been blamed for the swift spread of HIV in many African nations. In Nyanza province, Kenya, a government survey released in 2005 revealed that 65 percent of the local population mainly composed of the Luos, lives below the poverty line. In rural areas, households were living on US$ 17 per month, whereas those in towns had to live on US$ 35 per month. This led many stakeholders working in the region to argue that there is a correlation between poverty and HIV/AIDS.
In addition to lack of good quality education, women start having sex far much earlier in poorer areas. Studies have revealed that women who go to school have a lower HIV prevalence rate than their counterparts who fail to attend school (Cohen 2005). Poor women are also more likely to engage in sex for money or get married at an early age to escape the poverty dragnet. These are major risk factors that expose the women to HIV infection.
Though needy populations account for most of the HIV related cases in Africa, it is not automatic that the infection is confined to the poorest (Cohen 1999). There exists partial evidence for a socio-economic inclination to HIV infection. It therefore follows that the association between HIV prevalence and poverty is neither direct nor simple, and more complex influences are at work than just the forces of poverty alone. Indeed, many rich Africans adopt flashy lifestyles that directly expose them to the risks of HIV infection. Rich Luos are known to love this kind of lifestyle (Njeru et al 2004).
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