HIV infection prevalence shows strong regional variations in Cameroon, with the North West and the East as the most affected regions. Studies which have attempted to investigate the variation in HIV prevalence in Sub-Saharan countries found that the geographical heterogeneity in Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence between high and low prevalence areas still existed after considering the different distribution of unsafe sexual behaviours. Individual and area level socio-economic-positions are both related to HIV transmission but the only study carried out in Cameroon that investigated HIV seroprevalence and socio-economic factors used only individual-based measures. We carried out this study to investigate the full extent of socio-economic influences on HIV sero-prevalence. We analysed data from 4,672 men and 5,227 women, aged 15 to 49, who participated in the Cameroon Demographic and Health survey (CDHS). Among men, HIV risk increased with household wealth at the individual level and there was a positive association between HIV seropositivity and variation in wealth within a region. Among women, there was no evidence of association between living in a relatively disadvantaged region (regional wealth index) and being HIV positive, but HIV seropositivity was associated with variation in wealth within a region. The main direct link between income inequality and HIV is likely to be through transactional sex. High income inequality would stimulate risky sexual behaviours and the diffusion of illicit sexual relationships, especially for wealthy men. Public-health interventions should be carried out, paying particular care in raising the awareness of wealthy men towards less risky sexual behaviours. Policy makers should define intervention strategies to reduce the socio-economic differences within regions.
Key words: Multilevel modelling, socio-economic, development country, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
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