Feb 11, 2011

Researchers Analyze Causes Behind Decline in Zimbabwe's HIV Prevalence Rates

AUTHOR:PlusNews, IRIN NewsSOURCE:PlusNews, IRIN News

HIV prevalence rates in Zimbabwe dropped by 13% between 1997 and 2007 and the decline is too steep to be attributed solely to HIV’s natural progression, according to a new study. The study’s lead author and Harvard University Public Health lecturer, Daniel Halperin, said that Zimbabwe's success story indicated that behavioral changes were behind the decline. 

Researchers referenced a decade of HIV data and supplemented their research with in-depth expert interviews and focus group discussions. From 1999 to 2000, AIDS-related deaths in Zimbabwe rose by 30%. Through focus groups, researchers learned that this spike frightened many people into avoiding potentially risky behavior. Shifting societal norms also played an effect as certain behaviors (e.g. multiple sexual relationships, paying for sex) were increasingly stigmatized. Data shows that at roughly the same time HIV prevalence rates were falling, the amount of men who reported having multiple sexual partners fell by 40%. Coincidentally, salary rates were also dropping fast, making men less able to pay for sex or maintain multiple sexual relationships.


Halperin noted that other countries with well-funded HIV prevention programs did not always chart such large declines in prevalence rates, highlighting the power of grass roots, social change. He said: "I think the donor-funded HIV programs were probably useful in bringing down HIV prevalence but I think this shows you just can't pump money into a country, that things are only going to turn around once the communities get mobilized." Halperin stressed, however, that this method may not be effective everywhere. Nations like Ethiopia and Kenya have seen reductions in HIV prevalence, but the reasons why are not always clear. Halperin argues for more detailed analyses of HIV success stories in Africa. "The key is to triangulate HIV data with behavior data, but we also need qualitative data... We need to ask people very specifically: 'What's going on in your community'."

For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.plusnews.org/Report.aspx?Reportid=91901

Did you know?

Every year, more than one million children are left motherless and vulnerable because of maternal death.

Source:United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2010


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