Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

The Synergistic Effects of Socio-Economic Factors on the Risk of HIV Infection: A Comparative Study of Two Sub-Cities En Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

The Synergistic Effects of Socio-Economic Factors on the Risk of HIV Infection: A Comparative Study of Two Sub-Cities En Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Article excerpt


This paper attempts to explore the relationship between HIV/AIDS knowledge, risk factors perception and the risk of HIV infection in Ethiopia. The study used a comparative approach and both primary (quantitative and qualitative) and secondary data were used. The data show social and economic factors (income, education, gender inequality and inadequate health infrastructures) are important variables influencing people's vulnerability to HIV infection; and poor women are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour despite awareness about the risk of HIV infection. The poor neighbourhood provides the "path of least resistance" (Lindegger and Wood 1995,7). The paper argues that awareness alone is not sufficient in bringing about sexual behaviour change, since change/engaging in risky behaviours are essentially social behaviours occurring within specific social, cultural and economic settings. [The paper is] a modest contribution to the 'structural violence approach' (Farmer 1997; 2005) that emphasizes broader cultural, socio-economic and political factors in HIV/AIDS research and intervention programmes.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS knowledge, risk factors perception, structural violence, vulnerability to HIV infection, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


The distribution of AIDS is strikingly localized and nonrandom; so is that of human rights abuses. Both HIV transmission and human rights abuses are social processes and are embedded, most often, in the in egalitarian social structures I have called structural violence (Farmer 2005,230).

HIV/AIDS, a global challenge with no effective bio-medical solution in sight yet, is probably the most controversial health problem that humankind has faced in its recent history. HIV/AIDS differs from other health problems such as malaria or tuberculosis, which claim millions of lives every year globally, not in the number of people it had killed, rather in the absence of effective prevention methods and the inevitability of losses of millions of lives to the pandemic in the years to come. Although systematically generated empirical data are lacking, the social, economic and psychological impact of HIV/AIDS is enormous. The loss to the society of productive labour force, the problems of orphans and the burden of care and support, and the psychological trauma experienced by the infected and the affected are some of the issues that make HIV/AIDS the greatest challenge that confronted humankind since 1980s. According to Hunter (2003,7):

HIV/AIDS is fast becoming the worst human disease disaster the world has ever seen. Although still in its infancy, it is clear now that in the next ten to fifteen years, AIDS will claim more lives than any other human epidemic ever recorded. Even if a cure is found tomorrow, AIDS is triggering a disaster worse than any the human race has ever known...There is simply nothing left to compare it to, no scale of human suffering and devastation against which this terrible plague can possibly be measured.

In 2002, the AIDS epidemic claimed more than three million lives and an estimated five million people acquired HIV in the same year (UNAIDS/WHO 2002, 4). In 2005 AIDS claimed 3.1 million lives (100,000 more lives than was the case in 2002) despite improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many countries of the world (UNAIDS/WHO 2005, 2). Three years later (2008), with the massive ART intervention, AIDS claimed two million lives and registered 2.7 million new infections, while the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS globally was 33.4 million (UNAIDS/WHO 2008).

Sub-Saharan Africa, with just over 10 per cent of the world's population, was home to 67 per cent (22.4 million) of people living with HIV/AIDS in 2008 {Ibid., 11); this was 7 per cent higher than the share (60 per cent) it had in 2005 (UNAIDS/WHO 2005,17). The region registered 1.9 million (71 per cent) new infections in 2008 (UNAIDS/WHO 2008,11). …

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