The human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) pandemic is still ravaging, after the first case was diagnosed more than twenty years ago. Women are disproportionally affected, in 2008/2009 HIV prevalence among women was twice as high as that for men at 8 and 4.3% respectively (NACC, 2009). The aim of the study was to investigate the socio-cultural factors and risk perceptions that pre-dispose women and girls to the spread of HIV in Keiyo district, Kenya. The study further sought to determine the adverse effects of HIV on the livelihoods of the women and girls and also assessed the contribution of the government and NGOs in taming HIV. The study targeted women and girls in reproductive age (15 to 49). Kamariny and Metkei divisions were purposely sampled for the study. Two locations were further purposely sampled from the two divisions and basing on the number of house holds in each of the locations 98 females in reproductive ages were randomly selected. The key informants including the district medical officer, divisional education officers, leaders of CBOs, women group leaders and youth group leaders were purposely sampled and interviewed. Questionnaires, interview schedules and focused group discussions were employed. Secondary data was also used to supplement the primary data. Data was analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively and data presented in the form of frequency distribution tables, pie charts and graphs. In logic, assumption have in place that better- educated people have better access to information about HIV, how it is transmitted, and how it can be avoided and that inadequate or total lack of information on retrogressive socio- cultural factors perpetuating HIV spread leads to ‘knowledge gap’. The study revealed that most women beyond the ages of thirty one years have the perception that they are least at risk to HIV infection as compared to the younger females (girls). Majority of the respondents (60%) associated FGM with HIV spread. Thirty one (31%) of the respondents pointed out that FGM is a step from childhood to adulthood. Forty percent pointed out that removal of the clitoris reduces libido in a bid to prevent promiscuity and 23.5% believed that the clitoris is a source of deviant behaviour. Concerning the effect of HIV on women and girls, majority of the respondents (80.6%) admitted that HIV leads to greater burden in the household income and 77.6% of the respondents thought that HIV infection or AIDS related deaths among women leads to loss of family income. Illiteracy was rated as the highest (95%) cause of women vulnerability to HIV infection followed by Poverty and FGM at 93 and 70% respectively. The study recommends that adequate resources be availed to support the capacity of women and girls to lead change on HIV through knowledge. There should be pro active leadership to ensure that women and girls are free from physical, sexual and psychological abuse especially stemming from negative socio-cultural practices.
Key words: Female genital mutilation, human immune-deficiency virus, HIV prevance, socio-cultural.
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