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Have the educated changed HIV risk behaviours more in Africa?

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Theory predicts that when new health information becomes available, more educated individuals may adopt healthy behaviours sooner, resulting in lower morbidity and mortality among the highly educated. This may be the case for HIV in sub-Saharan Africa: Recent empirical work shows that incidence is falling and the reduction is concentrated in more educated populations. However, it is unclear whether the educated have indeed adopted HIV risk-reducing behaviours to a greater extent than the less educated. I used two rounds of demographic and health surveys (DHS) in eight African countries to examine whether HIV-related behavioural change over time is greater among the more highly educated. I examined changes in condom use, age of marriage, number of partners, extramarital partnerships, and HIV testing. Results showed that education has a robust positive association with condom use and HIV testing, but also with having more sexual partners. I found that the probability of HIV testing increased more between rounds among the more educated, relative to the less educated. More educated men also appeared to have larger reductions in the number of sexual partners and there was evidence that younger, more educated women may be marrying earlier than their predecessors did. The education gradient did not change significantly over time for condom use. These changes in behaviour may signal a shift in the future burden of the epidemic towards more marginalised and less educated populations.

Keywords: DHS; HIV and socio-economic status; behaviour change; education and health; sub-Saharan Africa

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre for Social Science Research, Leslie Social Sciences Building, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa Author's , Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2013

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