HIV/AIDS Spreading Factors in Africa


HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa has been a matter of intense debate throughout decades. Admittedly, various social and cultural issues contribute to the spread of the infection in the region. Therefore, cultural settings should be taken into account while developing prevention programs. Pen-3 Model within the dimension of cultural empowerment can be used to reveal the major health beliefs that shape people’s behavior in the region. Thus, it is important to focus on such factors as “positive”, “existential” and “negative” (Airhihenbuwa & Webster, 2004).

Positive Factors

Admittedly, people of different cultures have developed certain values and certain behavioral patterns throughout centuries. As far as Africans are concerned, they also rely on particular values. Some of these can be regarded as positive factors when dealing with such infections as HIV/AIDS. Thus, African communities are characterized by extended families where members of the family are supportive and parents tend to educate their children so that the latter could work out proper behavioral patterns.

For instance, Iwuagwu (2009) reports that an HIV positive woman decided to tell her son about her status and she also made her mind to warn him about the dangers he could face being “a young man now” (p. 81). Thus, family ties and close relationships can be regarded as positive factors that should be taken into account while developing HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

Existential Factors

Existential factors are those values that “are practiced in the culture but pose no threat to health” (Airhihenbuwa & Webster, 2004, p. 8). One of the major existential factors to be pointed out is that Africans are concerned with what other people will say about them and their families (Airhihenbuwa & Webster, 2004; Iwuagwu, 2009). Thus, people’s judgment plays a positive role in society. It also makes people work out more thoughtful behavioral patterns, especially when it comes to sexual relations. Of course, these beliefs and values should be used while working out HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

Negative Factors

As far as negative factors are concerned, it is necessary to note that they are caused by such external factors as political and social instability, economic constraints, etc. (Petros et al., 2006). Some of the most overt negative factors are racism, xenophobia, caste system, the militarization of societies in the region (Airhihenbuwa & Webster, 2004). Admittedly, these factors contribute greatly to the spread of the infection as instability leads to a crime rate increase.

Thus, such crimes as sexual abuse, substance abuse, and violence result in the spread of HIV/AIDS. Admittedly, it is difficult to solve these problems, but it is important to understand what can be done to reduce the negative effects of these factors.


On balance, it is possible to note that the 3-PEN model should be used to reveal major factors that should be taken into account while developing HIV/AIDS programs. Thus, health care specialists and educators should remember that Africans have extended families where members are supportive. Thus, the programs should largely rely on such values as strong family ties. The programs should also take into account such existential factors as morality and attention to other people’s judgments.

However, educators and health care specialists should pay special attention to negative factors that contribute to the spread of the infection. It is essential to work out programs that could be effective in terms of those difficult political and social conditions which are typical for the region.

Reference List

Airhihenbuwa, C.O. & Webster, J.D. (2004). Culture and African contexts of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and support. Journal of Special Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research Alliance, 1(1), 4-13.

Iwuagwu, S.C. (2009). Sexual and reproductive decisions and experiences of women living with HIV/AIDS in Abuja, Nigeria (Ph.D. Thesis. Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois). Web.

Petros, G., Airhihenbuwa, C.O., Simbayi, L., Ramlagan, S. & Brown, B. (2006). HIV/AIDS and ‘othering’ in South Africa: The blame goes on. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 8(1), 67-77.