Is polygyny a risk factor in the transmission of HIV in sub- Saharan Africa? A systematic review

Martin M Gazimbi, Monica A Magadi, Washington Onyango-Ouma, Elizabeth Walker, Rosemary B Cresswell, Margaret Kaseje, Charles O Wafula


Using a systematic literature review approach, this paper focused on the role of polygyny in the spread of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries. The widespread practice of polygyny is one feature of many SSA contexts that may be relevant to understanding patterns of HIV prevalence. Building on the conflicting studies on the importance of polygyny, this study investigated whether or not polygyny is a conduit for elevating HIV transmission in SSA countries. Findings showed that polygyny as an institution is perhaps less of a concern; rather the implication that men and women who are in polygamous relationships are also more likely to engage in extra-marital sex - raises secondary questions about their patterns of sexual networking and concurrent sexual partnerships. The findings however show that polygyny amplifies risky sexual behaviours such as sexual networking and concurrent sexual partnerships, all of which were found to be significantly associated with the risk of HIV transmission. This demonstrates that targeting risky sexual behaviours in a broader marital context may be more important for HIV risk reduction than targeting polygyny as an institution. (Afr J Reprod Health 2020; 24[4]: 198-212).

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