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

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Mali, a Way Station for Syrians Headed to Europe

    Another door may be closing for Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country, this time in Africa

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    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.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora