News / Africa

Fighting Poverty, Protecting Women from HIV

Girls in Malawi's Zomba district who took part in study to protect their health. (2010)
Girls in Malawi's Zomba district who took part in study to protect their health. (2010)
TEXT SIZE - +
Joe DeCapua

Financially empowering young women in poor countries may help protect them against sexually transmitted diseases. A new study shows that addressing poverty can help prevent risky behavior.

Poverty, a lack of education and gender inequality make girls and young women more vulnerable. It happens when they turn to older men for financial help for themselves or their families. Men who may be infected with HIV or herpes.

The findings are based on a study of 13 to 22 year old women in the Zomba district of Malawi. At the start of the study none had ever been married.

“We knew that Malawi was a poor country with a high HIV problem particularly among adolescent girls and young women, especially in the south where we ended up doing our study. So we said, why don’t we start this little pilot experiment to see as a proof of concept whether small amounts of cash transfers can reduce the risk of getting infected?” said Dr. Berk Ozler, a senior economist at the World Bank, who took part in the research.

Education, he said, has been described as a “social vaccine” against HIV and other diseases. But many girls in the study were dropouts.

“A lot of times young girls will drop out of school very early, like age 14, 15, 16. And soon after that, their fertility, their child bearing starts and then they get married. And the earlier you’re getting married the older your husband or your sexual partners tend to be. That’s essentially the link toward unprotected – not necessarily risk per se – but unprotected sexual behavior in an environment where older men have a significant chance of being HIV positive,” said Ozler.

Sugar Daddies?

Sometimes, older men who are with much younger women are called sugar daddies. But the World Bank economist said that was not necessarily the case in the Malawi study.

“In the media, this kind of sugar daddy phenomena gets sensationalized a little bit. What we find is much more subtle. It’s that if you’re an 18, 19 year old girl and you need somebody to support you and your family, your age mates aren’t really able to do that because your age mates are as poor as you. But it’s the older guys who have a bit of money. So, when we’re talking about this kind of sugar daddy phenomenon, it’s really not that. It’s that you’re essentially dating out of your age cohort because of economic reasons,” he said.

If the young women had sex with men their own age, he said, they would have a very low risk of contracting HIV. Surveys in Malawi show the HIV prevalence rate among teenage boys is close to zero.

Little money, big difference

The study offered the girls and young women cash payments, perhaps 10 dollars a month. Some were just given the money with no conditions attached, while others were required to regularly attend school. There was some behavior change in those who received the money.

Ozler said, “Girls who were sexually active kept being sexually active. But they chose different partners. They dated their age mates, who are much less likely to be HIV positive. But on top of that they actually had much less sexual activity with them. Right, so it wasn’t like they’re abstaining, but they were having less sex. And we know both of those things are protective factors.”

The study showed these young women generally had extremely low HIV or herpes infection rates.

Ozler said more research is needed to determine if such a program would work in most poor countries. But he says it could be considered as part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent HIV infection.

Ozler was joined in the research by Dr. Sarah Baird of George Washington University; Professor Richard Garfein; and Dr. Craig McIntosh of the University of California at San Diego. The Study was published by the Lancet medical journal.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid