HIV/AIDS and young age widowhood in sub-Saharan Africa

J Health Hum Serv Adm. Winter 2001;24(3):259-78.


This article investigates a probable hidden consequence of high rates of HIV infection and AIDS deaths-an apparently rising proportion of women aged below 50 years who are widowed. It is assumed that young widows who remain unmarried and are sexually active may widely disseminate HIV infection if they are seropositive and do not use condoms. Data from eight nationally representative social surveys in sub-Saharan Africa are analyzed. Four of the surveys are from countries with high HIV prevalence rates (about 10% of adults are HIV positive) and the other four surveys are from countries with relatively low prevalence rates (about 2% of adults are HIV positive). The proportion of young widows in six countries with relevant data are calculated and compared over time. The results show that the proportion of young widows is higher in countries with high HIV prevalence rates than in countries with low prevalence rates. Moreover, while the proportion of young widows decreased in countries with low HIV prevalence rates, the proportion increased in high-prevalence countries. The implications of these results for research policy in Sub-Saharan Africa are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / mortality*
  • HIV Seroprevalence
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Widowhood*