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East Afr Med J. 2005 Jan;82(1):40-6.

Complementary factors contributing to the rapid spread of HIV-I in sub-Saharan Africa: a review.

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Tumaini University, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College, P.O. Box 2240, Moshi, Tanzania.



To examine and establish complementary factors that contribute to the alarmingly high prevalence of HIV-1 in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in order to create awareness and suggest possible measures to avert the spread of the pandemic.


Review of literature via Medline, the Internet, articles in refereed journals, and un-refereed features from the East Africa media houses and personal communications.


Most published data from 1981 to September 2004 found to have revealed an impact on the spread of HIV-1 in SSA were included in the review. Therefore, all selected articles were read and critically evaluated. Where possible the number of citations articles which had been received were sought to established the degree of impact.


Abstracts of all articles identified were accessed, read and analysed to determined possible relevance to the spread of HIV-1. When relevance was established from the abstract the entire paper was read and important points were included in the review.


A matrix was drawn to include all subtitles (e.g. polygamy, circumcision, poverty, etc). Below each subtitle all published works were included and prioritised. Published works that were found to have impact were included in the review. Finally a percent composite picture of all factors was drawn in an attempt to prioritise the factors, not withstanding the fact that most factors are interrelated and complementary.


There are many reasons why the spread of HIV-1 in SSA has not been declining over the years. Main risk factors for HIV-1 infection and AIDS disease in SSA were found to include poverty, famine, low status of women in society, corruption, naive risk taking perception, resistance to sexual behaviour change, high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STI), internal conflicts and refugee status, antiquated beliefs, lack of recreational facilities, ignorance of individual's HIV status, child and adult prostitution, uncertainty of safety of blood intended for transfusion, widow inheritance, circumcision, illiteracy and female genital cutting and polygamy. It is suggested that control programmes both local and donor-driven seeking to mitigate the spread of HIV-1 in SSA should take into account the apparent multiplicity of sub-Saharan African cultures and beliefs, some of which augment the spread of HIV-1.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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