ECONOMIC inequality and exposure to alcohol consumption are some of the main culprits underpinning HIV vulnerability, a recent study conducted in Namibia found. The study was conducted by C-Change, a USAID-funded project, says that although they may have changed their behaviour, adult women remain at risk, it was established.
Where risk behaviour was reduced, continued vulnerability to HIV stemmed from the risky behaviour of their male partners - especially for monogamous women.
"Those who had children out of wedlock in their late teens and early twenties and were abandoned by the fathers, continued to be under pressure to meet considerable economic needs, even if they were employed," the findings read.
Also, "failed relationships and mistrust perpetuated a cycle of partner turnover and incapacity to commit to longer-term, stable and monogamous relationships".
Regarding economic inequality, it is stated that "poorer women might be inclined to exchange sexual favours for economic benefits, while unemployed men sought out employed women for similar benefits. Underlying environmental factors such as the widespread availability of alcohol, perpetuated HIV risk, as did other circumstantial factors."
Socio-cultural factors such as acceptance of promiscuity and a lack of accountability between sexual partners in relation to HIV prevention are other contributing factors, the study found.
An emphasis on ongoing education and employment for women may have decreased their dependence on men but "have not sufficiently diminished adult women's vulnerability to HIV".
This, the findings show, is because the likelihood of long-term sexual relationships and marriage for adult women is also reduced - making women more vulnerable.
As far as communication on HIV is concerned, some participants in the survey see door-to-door campaigns as overly intrusive.
"They also expressed concern that some AIDS educators and authority figures were seen to be engaged in risky sexual practices themselves. Participants also highlighted contradictions in the overly sexualised content of some of the HIV prevention messaging."
According to the findings, participants further called for transforming HIV knowledge into action through greater levels of community engagement, including involvement in problem-solving.
Male participants, in particular, "voiced concerns about the impact of HIV on the women in their lives and the community in general, highlighting that they had not been adequately drawn into processes for addressing the disease."