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Public Health Rep. 2010 Jul-Aug;125 Suppl 4:16-24.

The social determinants of HIV serostatus in sub-Saharan Africa: an inverse relationship between poverty and HIV?

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Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.


Contrary to theories that poverty acts as an underlying driver of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), an increasing body of evidence at the national and individual levels indicates that wealthier countries, and wealthier individuals within countries, are at heightened risk for HIV. This article reviews the literature on what has increasingly become known as the positive-wealth gradient in HIV infection in SSA, or the counterintuitive finding that the poor do not have higher rates of HIV. This article also discusses the programmatic and theoretical implications of the positive HIV-wealth gradient for traditional behavioral interventions and the social determinants of health literature, and concludes by proposing that economic and social policies be leveraged as structural interventions to prevent HIV in SSA.

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