Volume 37 - Article 10 | Pages 251–294 Author has provided data and code for replicating results

Physical attractiveness and women’s HIV risk in rural Malawi

By Margaret Frye, Sophia Chae

Print this page  Facebook  Twitter

 

 
Date received:23 Feb 2017
Date published:08 Aug 2017
Word count:7654
Keywords:HIV/AIDS, Malawi, sexual behavior, sexual risk behavior, sub-Saharan Africa
DOI:10.4054/DemRes.2017.37.10
Additional files:readme.37-10 (text file, 690 Byte)
 demographic-research.37-10 (zip file, 33 kB)
 

Abstract

Background: Qualitative evidence from sub-Saharan Africa, where a generalized AIDS epidemic exists, suggests that attractiveness may play a role in shaping individual-level HIV risk. Attractive women, who are often blamed for the epidemic and stigmatized, are believed to pose a higher HIV risk because they are viewed as having more and riskier partners.

Objective: We examine the association between perceived attractiveness and HIV infection and risk in rural Malawi in the midst of the country’s severe AIDS epidemic.

Methods: We use interviewers’ ratings of respondents’ attractiveness, along with HIV test results and women’s assessments of their own likelihood of infection, to estimate the association between perceived attractiveness and HIV infection and risk for a random sample of 961 women aged 15‒35.

Results: Results show that women who are rated by interviewers as ‘much less’ or ‘less’ attractive than other women their age are 9% more likely to test positive for HIV. We also find that attractiveness is associated with women’s own assessments of their HIV risk: Among women who tested negative, those perceived as ‘much less’ or ‘less’ attractive than average report themselves to be at greater risk of HIV infection.

Conclusions: These results suggest that attractiveness is negatively associated with HIV risk in Malawi, countering local beliefs that hold attractive women responsible for perpetuating the epidemic.

Contribution: This study highlights the need to consider perceived physical attractiveness, and sexual desirability more broadly, as an under-examined axis of inequality in HIV risk in high-prevalence settings.

Author's Affiliation

Margaret Frye - Princeton University, United States of America [Email]
Sophia Chae - Population Council, International [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Forgotten marriages? Measuring the reliability of marriage histories
Volume 34 - Article 19

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

» Polygyny and HIV in Malawi
Volume 19 - Article 53    | Keywords: HIV/AIDS, Malawi, sexual behavior, sub-Saharan Africa

» Why are they worried? Concern about AIDS in rural Malawi
Special Collection 1 - Article 9    | Keywords: HIV/AIDS, Malawi, sexual behavior, sub-Saharan Africa

» Sexual networks, partnership mixing, and the female-to-male ratio of HIV infections in generalized epidemics: An agent-based simulation study
Volume 33 - Article 15    | Keywords: HIV/AIDS, sexual behavior, sub-Saharan Africa

» When the group encourages extramarital sex: Difficulties in HIV/AIDS prevention in rural Malawi
Volume 28 - Article 30    | Keywords: HIV/AIDS, Malawi, sub-Saharan Africa

» An inquiry into the uneven distribution of women’s HIV infection in rural Malawi
Volume 25 - Article 28    | Keywords: HIV/AIDS, Malawi, sub-Saharan Africa

Articles

 

Citations

 

 

Similar Articles

 

 

Jump to Article

Volume Page
Volume Article ID