There is limited empirical research on the underlying gender inequity norms shaping gender-based violence, power, and HIV risks in sub-Saharan Africa, or how risk pathways may differ for men and women. This study is among the first to directly evaluate the adherence to gender inequity norms and epidemiological relationships with violence and sexual risks for HIV infection.
Data were derived from population-based cross-sectional samples recruited through two-stage probability sampling from the 5 highest HIV prevalence districts in Botswana and all districts in Swaziland (2004–5). Based on evidence of established risk factors for HIV infection, we aimed 1) to estimate the mean adherence to gender inequity norms for both men and women; and 2) to model the independent effects of higher adherence to gender inequity norms on a) male sexual dominance (male-controlled sexual decision making and rape (forced sex)); b) sexual risk practices (multiple/concurrent sex partners, transactional sex, unprotected sex with non-primary partner, intergenerational sex).
A total of 2049 individuals were included, n = 1255 from Botswana and n = 796 from Swaziland. In separate multivariate logistic regression analyses, higher gender inequity norms scores remained independently associated with increased male-controlled sexual decision making power (AORmen = 1.90, 95%CI:1.09–2.35; AORwomen = 2.05, 95%CI:1.32–2.49), perpetration of rape (AORmen = 2.19 95%CI:1.22–3.51), unprotected sex with a non-primary partner (AORmen = 1.90, 95%CI:1.14–2.31), intergenerational sex (AORwomen = 1.36, 95%CI:1.08–1.79), and multiple/concurrent sex partners (AORmen = 1.42, 95%CI:1.10–1.93).
These findings support the critical evidence-based need for gender-transformative HIV prevention efforts including legislation of women's rights in two of the most HIV affected countries in the world.