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)
    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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.