Is it who you are or where you live? A mixed-method exploration of associations between people and place in the context of HIV in rural Malawi Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Feldacker, Caryl B.
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Health Behavior
  • In Malawi, approximately 1 million people are infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Infection rates are decreasing in urban areas; the opposite is true for rural populations. Individual-level risk factors influence patterns of HIV in Malawi. However, area-level socio-economic and access factors may play critical roles in driving HIV, and these factors are rarely investigated. To address this gap, this research uses a nationally-representative probability sample of rural Malawians linked to spatially-oriented, area-level socio-economic and access data to address two specific aims: 1) to reveal relationships between area-level factors and individual HIV status and determine whether individual risk behaviors mediate these associations using logistic regression; and, 2) to explore how relationships between area- and individual-level risks and individual HIV status vary in space using geographically weighted regression. Analysis is stratified to examine the role of gender. Area-level factors include income inequality and absolute poverty as well as proximity to roads, cities, and health clinics. Mediators include condom use, sexually transmitted infections, multiple partnerships, and, for men, paid sex. Results indicate that both people and place matter in the context of HIV in rural Malawi. Among women, high income inequality and proximity to a major road are associated with increased odds of HIV while the negative association between distance to healthcare and HIV status is mediated by individual behavior. For men, living further from a health clinic decreases the odds of HIV infection. Spatial models provide additional detail, illustrating local-level variation in these associations. Women further from health clinics, major roads, and major cities are less likely to be infected in specific geographic areas. HIV status among men is closely associated with migration patterns in distinct locations. As informed by the Political Economy of Health theory, this study confirms that area-level socio-economic and access factors influence HIV in rural Malawi. Associations vary by gender and in space and are largely not mediated by individual behavior. The findings suggest that inequality has deleterious effects on women, and that spatial isolation may lead to social isolation for both genders, decreasing HIV risk. These results could inform tailored HIV prevention efforts in rural Malawi.
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  • ... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education in the Gillings School of Global Public Health.
  • Ennett, Susan

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