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Poverty and HIV/AIDS, a VICIOUS CIRCLE in Sub-Saharan countries

Poverty and HIV/AIDS, a VICIOUS CIRCLE in Sub-Saharan countries

The link between poverty and HIV/AIDS has been referred to as a “vicious circle”, wherein the experience of poverty increases HIV infection, while AIDS contributes to poverty and forms of social deprivation. At a macro level, some theorists have described HIV/AIDS as one of the diseases of poverty. Studies have shown, that poverty and HIV infection are indeed in correlation, but it is still not sufficiently verified whether HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa is an outcome of poverty. While some macro and micro studies find a positive relationship between poverty and HIV, others do not. This blog post will comment on this controversial issue and intends to verify that HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa is indeed an outcome of poverty (Correlation HIV/Poverty).

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is home to 62% of the worlds’ Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cases, more than 14 000 people are daily infected with the HIV, and 11 000 people are dying daily due to HIV/AIDS related illnesses. 70% of the poorest people in the world live in Sub-Saharan Africa. This region has the lowest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world, with more than 60% of the population spending less than US $1 a day. Data shows that worst affected countries with HIV/AIDS such as Botswana and South Africa are among the most economically developed in the region which contradicts the poverty-AIDS argument. However, poverty does seem to be the crucial factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS, particularly through sexual trade (Data on HIV/AIDS in SSA).

Before one can evaluate whether there is a correlation, it is essential to know what exactly poverty is. Strategies of the World Bank and the United Nations continue with inadequate intervention strategies as they are still obsessed with GDP growth as poverty alleviation. This has negative consequences for HIV containment and does not take into account the widespread recognition of the fact, that the experience of poverty is comprised of far more dimensions than solely low income (Poverty is about more than money). Poverty contains deprivation, constrained choices, and unfulfilled capabilities, and refers to interrelated features of well-being that impact upon the standard of living and the quality of life. It is not necessarily confined to financial capital, quantified, and minimized in monetary indices. While financial capital is important, a solely reductionist approach avoids non-monetary resources, the lack of which contributes to and sustains poverty. A lot of people in Sub Saharan are in such poverty. They lack not only money, but assets and skills.

The poorest are the ones who are most infected by HIV in Africa, which is not only due to the cause that information, education, and counselling activities are unlikely to reach the poor, but also because such messages are often irrelevant and useless given the reality of their lives. They rarely have the incentive or the resources to adopt the recommended behaviours. The capacity of individuals and households to deal with HIV/AIDS depends on their initial endowment of human and financial assets. By definition, the poorest are least able to cope with the effects of HIV/AIDS, so that impoverishment among the affected populations is increasing. Moreover, AIDS can have a devastating effect on economies at the national, community, and household levels. When looking at the national and community levels, economic output may be diminished due to loss of young adults in their most productive years, and increased cost of, and strain on, medical care and treatment provision. At the household level, when an adult gets infected by AIDS, the family is exposed to a loss of income, increased medical expenditures, and members of the family may have to quit school or work to act as care-givers (The Economic Consequences of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa).

In SSA many of the poorest are women for whom commercial sexual transactions are a part of survival strategies for themselves and their dependents. Besides sexual trade, migration, polygamy, and teenage marriages are as well strong predictors for HIV as an outcome of poverty. Still, one has to keep in mind that HIV cannot be reduced only to sexual behaviour and social levels, but the conditions of poverty also facilitate HIV transmission and raises the vulnerability to infection in biological terms. In SSA, malnutrition, parasitic infection, and malaria are endemic which all undermine immune response. In general, malnutrition is widely spread in SSA which weakens every component of the immune system (HIV vulnerabilty higher when there is malnutrition).

To finish this post, one can definitely say that poverty and AIDS remain mutually reinforcing, exacerbating the AIDS epidemic, and the plight of the impoverished. Different research findings showed that consequences of poverty, dependent on variables such as migration, sexual trade, polygamy, and teenage marriages are directly related to HIV/AIDS (Poverty variables directly linked to HIV/AIDS).

 By Hannah Weger



For more on the topic read:

· amfAR (2016). Statistics: Worldwide. Retrieved 02/04/2016 from

· Mbirimtengerenji, D. (2007). Is HIV/AIDS Epidemic Outcome of Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa? Retrieved 02/05/2016 from

· Rugalema G. Mutangadura G, Jackson H, Mukurazita D, (1999). AIDS and African Smallholder Agriculture. Harare: SAfAIDS; 1999.

· UNDP (2002) Conceptual shifts for sound planning: towards an integrated approach to HIV/AIDS and poverty. Retrieved 03/05/2016 from




Author: studentnovasbe

Master student in Nova Sbe

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