Disproportionately high HIV risk and gender disparity in prevalence among urban poor in Sub-Saharan Africa

The disproportionate high risk of HIV infection among the urban poor in sub-Saharan Africa.

Magadi MA. AIDS Behav. 2013 Jun;17(5):1645-54. doi: 10.1007/s10461-012-0217-y.

The link between HIV infection and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is rather complex and findings from previous studies remain inconsistent. While some argue that poverty increases vulnerability, existing empirical evidence largely support the view that wealthier men and women have higher prevalence of HIV. In this paper, we examine the association between HIV infection and urban poverty in SSA, paying particular attention to differences in risk factors of HIV infection between the urban poor and non-poor. The study is based on secondary analysis of data from the Demographic and Health Surveys from 20 countries in SSA, conducted during 2003-2008. We apply multilevel logistic regression models, allowing the urban poverty risk factor to vary across countries to establish the extent to which the observed patterns are generalizable across countries in the SSA region. The results reveal that the urban poor in SSA have significantly higher odds of HIV infection than urban non-poor counterparts, despite poverty being associated with a significantly lower risk among rural residents. Furthermore, the gender disparity in HIV infection (i.e. the disproportionate higher risk among women) is amplified among the urban poor. The paper confirms that the public health consequence of urban poverty that has been well documented in previous studies with respect to maternal and child health outcomes does apply to the risk of HIV infection. The positive association between household wealth and HIV prevalence observed in previous studies largely reflects the situation in the rural areas where the majority of the SSA populations reside.

Abstract [1]   Full-text [free] access [2] 

Editor’s notes: Evidence on the association between socio-economic position and HIV incidence in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been mixed and appears to be changing over time. Although wealth was previously a predictor of HIV infection, it has recently been suggested that poverty is increasingly driving new infections in mature epidemics, especially in rural areas, where the majority of the population in SSA resides. With high rates of urbanisation both in SSA and globally (according to UNAIDS 2 of every 3 people living with HIV will be living in urban areas by 2030), this article provides important disaggregated evidence of the higher risk of HIV infection among the urban poor as well, and particularly among poor urban women. Even after controlling for sexual behaviour, the results suggest that other structural factors that characterise the environment, in which the urban poor live, such as unemployment, discrimination and violence, may be playing a key role. Interestingly, higher educational attainment was found to be associated with higher HIV risk among the urban poor, while it appeared to be protective among the better-off urban population. This may be pointing towards the ‘inverse equity hypothesis’, discussed in another paper this month (Hargreaves et a [3]l.), whereby groups with higher socio-economic position (wealth and/or education) are expected to benefit first from HIV/health interventions, thereby initially widening the gap in health outcomes until the poor catch up. 

Africa [10]
Burkina Faso [11], Cameroon [12], Côte d'Ivoire [13], Democratic Republic of the Congo [14], Ethiopia [15], Ghana [16], Guinea [17], Kenya [18], Lesotho [19], Liberia [20], Malawi [21], Mali [22], Niger [23], Rwanda [24], Senegal [25], Sierra Leone [26], Swaziland [27], United Republic of Tanzania [28], Zimbabwe [29]
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