Study: Exposure to Recent Drought Events Raises HIV Risk in Africa

Shelby Davidson

Written by: Shelby Davidson

Shelby Davidson

With experience covering all things related to the dating world, I have produced content for sites like Elite Daily and The Lala. While a majority of my time is spent as an editorial assistant writing articles and transcribing interviews, you can also find me in the gym, listening to Drake or at a hipster coffee shop.

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

Discuss This! Discuss This!
Advertiser Disclosure

Unfortunately in the villages of sub-Saharan Africa, economic blows often come in the form of droughts.

A new study presented in the Economic Journal is breaking ground in confirming the correlation between financial hardships and the spread of HIV.

Researchers from UC Berkeley, Middlebury College and the International Food Policy Research Institute showed that preventing people from having shocks to their bank accounts could help from resorting to risky behaviors that spread this disease.

In the long term, the study’s co-author Kelly Jones and her colleagues are delving further into this issue to discover if helping both rural and urban women save more money deceases their risk of HIV. This is largely because the highest HIV rates are among women in agriculture and non-farming men.

Examining available data on HIV patients in 19 African countries, including the locations of the patients’ villages, they focused on where droughts had hit in the previous decade because of the financial shock they cause.

The study’s results prove higher rates of HIV exist among villages in sub-Saharan Africa that had experienced drought in the previous 10 years. To make matters worse, there was an 11 percent increase in HIV prevalence for every drought in that time frame.

In the developing world, very few people have substantial savings — a huge reason why these droughts cause such a financial burden.

“When they have a bad week or a bad month, they often don’t have any way to cover themselves,” Jones said.

Commodities like better access to savings and credit, crop insurance and more drought-tolerant crops, the study says, could ease this burden and minimize the spread of HIV.

But because people in sub-Saharan Africa need a way to cope with the crises, they trade sex for support. Unfortunately this “transactional sex” raises their risk of becoming infected with the virus.

In addition, people who had experienced droughts in this study were 10 to 15 percent more inclined to cheat on their spouses.

Although drought vulnerability is only part of the HIV puzzle that is sub-Saharan Africa, the researchers found it helped to explain about a fifth of the differences in HIV rates in this continent.

“To find a new factor that no one had thought of and already be explaining 11 percent, I think from a social science research perspective, that suggests that’s a pretty important factor,” said Edward Miguel, an economist from UC Berkeley.

Other than HIV, crime and political instability also grows after droughts, research shows. Jones said many people cannot smooth life’s ups and downs because they do not have access to the financial resources to help.

Whatever she and other researchers can do to help reduce the financial burdens of individuals like those in sub-Saharan Africa will have benefits in every aspect of life.

Advertiser Disclosure is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation from many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across the site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.

Our Editorial Review Policy

Our site is committed to publishing independent, accurate content guided by strict editorial guidelines. Before articles and reviews are published on our site, they undergo a thorough review process performed by a team of independent editors and subject-matter experts to ensure the content’s accuracy, timeliness, and impartiality. Our editorial team is separate and independent of our site’s advertisers, and the opinions they express on our site are their own. To read more about our team members and their editorial backgrounds, please visit our site’s About page.