Role of Widows in the Heterosexual Transmission of HIV in Manicaland, Zimbabwe, 1998–2003
Lopman, B. A., Nyamukapa, C., Hallett, T. B., et al. Sexually Transmitted Infections (2009), 8(S1), pp. i41–i48.
AIDS is the most common cause of young widowhood in southern Africa and was found among 11 percent of women in this rural population. This study of over 900 widowers found HIV prevalence rates at follow up to be 54 percent among ever-widowed men and 63 percent among ever-widowed women. HIV infection was largely acquired prior to widowhood, however. While 50 percent of 48 sexually active widows reported engaging in transactional sex, only 3 percent of married women reported doing the same. Widows were significantly more likely to use condoms than married women, however (53 percent versus 8 percent, respectively). The authors used their findings in a mathematical model, estimating that between 8 percent and 17 percent of HIV infections over 20 years could be attributed to widow/widower sexual activity. Although widowers were more likely to transmit HIV to their partners, the greater prevalence of widows contributes to their higher overall transmission of HIV. The authors conclude that increasing the financial independence of widows through employment opportunities may reduce their reliance on new sexual partners for financial support.