The prevalence of the use of 'dry sex' traditional medicines, among Zambian women, and the profile of the users

Psychol Health Med. 2009 Mar;14(2):227-38. doi: 10.1080/13548500802270364.


Concern has been voiced about the 'dry sex' practice in Southern and Central Africa, and its possible role in the transmission of the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV). Despite this concern, there has been little information about the practice. Most of the available information has been anecdotal, speculative or inadequate mainly because of cultural reluctance to discuss or investigate personal sexual issues. This article provides information about the prevalence of the practice in Zambia and the profile of its practitioners. A cross-sectional study involving 812 Zambian women was undertaken in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. Quantitative and qualitative data was obtained through self-administered questionnaires, interviews, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. The quantitative data was analysed using SPSS, and the qualitative data was used to complement and clarify the quantitative data. Awareness of the 'dry sex' practice was almost universal among Zambian women. About two-thirds had used 'dry sex' traditional medicines (DSTM) at some point in their lives, and about half were using them. Those who were most likely to have been using, or to have used DSTM, were those who were older, married, with little or no formal education, mainstream Christians, from the lower socio-economic levels, homemakers, manual workers (p < 0.001), originally from the Eastern province of Zambia (p < 0.002) and those who had spent most of their formative years in rural areas (p < 0.006).The study showed that the knowledge and use of DSTM is widespread among Zambian women, especially among those who were most likely to adhere to traditional views and beliefs about womanhood and marriage, and perhaps those likely to have a poor sense of self-worth or less confidence. In view of the concern about the possible role of 'dry sex' in HIV transmission, these findings would be useful in Health education strategies.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Medicine, African Traditional*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vagina / drug effects*
  • Vagina / metabolism
  • Young Adult
  • Zambia