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HIV AIDS and Young Age Widowhood in Sub-Saharan Africa

JHHSA, Vol. 24 No. 3, (2001)

This article investigates a probable hidden consequence of high rates of
HIV infection and AIDS deaths—an apparently rising proportion of
women aged below 50 years who are widowed. It is assumed that young
widows who remain unmarried and are sexually active may widely
disseminate HIV infection if they are seropositive and do not use
condoms. Data from eight nationally representative social surveys in
sub-Saharan Africa are analyzed. Four of the surveys are from countries
with high HIV prevalence rates (about 10% of adults are HIV positive)
and the other four surveys are from countries with relatively low
prevalence rates (about 2% of adults are HIV positive). The proportion of
young widows in six countries with relevant data are calculated and
compared over time. The results show that the proportion of young
widows is higher in countries with high HIV prevalence rates than in
countries with low prevalence rates. Moreover, while the proportion of
young widows decreased in countries with low HIV prevalence rates, the
proportion increased in high-prevalence countries. The implications of
these results for research policy in Sub-Saharan Africa are discussed.

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