Does Early Marriage Increase Women's Risk of HIV? Evidence from Nationally Representative Data in Cameroon

Timothy Adair, Macro International Inc.

Recent research has highlighted the risk of HIV infection for married teenage women compared with their unmarried counterparts (Bruce and Clark 2003, Clark 2004). This study assesses whether a relationship exists between age at first marriage and HIV status for women that have completed their adolescence (aged 20-29 years) utilizing the nationally-representative 2004 Cameroon Demographic and Health Survey. Multivariate analysis shows that late-marrying women have the highest risk of HIV. Age at first intercourse instead has no relationship with HIV status, except when only 20-24 year olds are analyzed, suggesting that a longer period of pre-marital sexual activity may explain a higher risk of infection for late-marrying women. Although women in urban areas overall marry later than their rural counterparts, the positive relationship between age at marriage and HIV risk is stronger in rural areas. The higher wealth status and greater number of lifetime sexual partners of late-marrying women contribute to their higher HIV risk.

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Presented in Poster Session 4