Changing Sexual Habits Caused by Economic Decline Contributing to Decrease in Recorded HIV Cases in Zimbabwe, Researchers Say
July 16, 2007
Economic decline fueled by rising inflation in Zimbabwe has changed the sexual habits of some men in the country, which might be contributing to the decreasing number of HIV cases recorded in the country, some researchers have said recently, the Washington Post reports (Timberg, Washington Post, 7/13).
Some researchers believe that economic growth -- seen in rising truck traffic, growing bar scenes and an increasing income disparity -- encourage behavior that can fuel the spread of sexually transmitted infections. However, low-income men in Zimbabwe "pare back" such behavior, which also includes having multiple sex partners, making them less likely to contract or spread HIV, the Post reports. According to surveys, men in Zimbabwe reported having fewer girlfriends, fewer visits to commercial sex workers and less casual sex. They also reported that they are abandoning what Zimbabweans call "small houses" -- a practice where married men pay rent and other living expenses for a second or third regular sex partner. According to the Post, condoms rarely are used in these situations, "creating webs of unprotected sex easily infiltrated by HIV."
Godrey Woelk, an epidemiologist at the University of Zimbabwe, said, "Having a lot of girlfriends or having 'small houses', you've got to have a degree of disposable income." He added, "Being poor and being in love does not really work." Elliot Mandaza, a pastor at New Life Covenant Church in Harare, said few men can afford to have several sex partners. The practice is "by and large now the preserve of the wealthy," he said, adding, "You have a 'small house' if you have the money" (Washington Post, 7/13).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.