Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The richest people in Africa have higher HIV prevalence rates than the poorest

John Donnelly:

The richest people in Africa have higher HIV prevalence rates than the poorest, disputing commonly held beliefs that AIDS is a disease driven by poverty, according to an analysis released yesterday of recent data from eight African countries.

The study, which was presented and debated in South Africa at the third annual US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief meeting, found that the poorest 20 percent of the population almost always had a lower HIV prevalence rate than the richest 20 percent. The study's author said the findings should be used to make sure AIDS prevention messages are reaching those who earn the most money.

"Poverty-driven programs are likely to have limited impact on prevention efforts when the majority of HIV-infected people are the wealthiest, not the poorest," said Vinod Mishra, director of research at ORC Macro, a Maryland-based research company that conducts detailed demographic surveys around the world.

Mishra gave several possible reasons why those with more money have higher HIV prevalence rates. One is that studies show that the richest people have more partners, "more opportunities to travel, more opportunities for casual sex," and rich men can afford to buy sex, Mishra said in an interview. He also said wealthier men in Africa start having sex at an earlier age than poorer men, though wealthier women start to have sex later than poorer women.

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