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Understanding ethnic variations in HIV prevalence in Kenya: the role of cultural practices

Magadi, Monica; Gazimbi, Martin; Wafula, Charles; Kaseje, Margaret


Monica Magadi

Martin Gazimbi

Charles Wafula

Margaret Kaseje


Patterns of HIV prevalence in Kenya suggest that areas where various cultural practices are prevalent bear a disproportionate burden of HIV. This paper examines (i) the contextual effects of cultural practices (polygyny, male circumcision) and related sexual behaviour factors on HIV prevalence and (ii) the extent to which specific cultural practices in a community/county might explain existing ethnic variations in HIV prevalence in Kenya. The analysis applies multilevel logistic regression to data from the 2012/13 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey. The results reveal striking ethnic variations in HIV prevalence in Kenya. The prevalence of polygyny in a community is positively associated with HIV prevalence, while a higher level of male circumcision in a county is protective for both men and women. The effects of these factors are stronger for men than women at both individual and contextual (community/county) levels. These cultural practices and associated risk factors partly explain existing ethnic differences in HIV prevalence in Kenya, but there remain significant ethnic variations that are not explained by these cultural practices or related sexual behaviour factors. These call for stronger empirical evidence to offer stronger theoretical explanations and inform effective policy and practice to address HIV epidemic in adversely affected communities in Kenya and similar settings in sub-Saharan Africa.


Magadi, M., Gazimbi, M., Wafula, C., & Kaseje, M. (2021). Understanding ethnic variations in HIV prevalence in Kenya: the role of cultural practices. Culture, health & sexuality, 23(6), 822-839.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 21, 2020
Online Publication Date May 4, 2020
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date May 7, 2020
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Culture, Health and Sexuality
Print ISSN 1369-1058
Electronic ISSN 1464-5351
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 6
Pages 822-839
Keywords HIV prevalence; ethnic variations; cultural practices; contextual effects; Kenya
Public URL


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