Transitions to adulthood: Examining the influence of initiation rites on the HIV risk of adolescent girls in Mangochi and Thyolo districts of Malawi.

a Department of Health, Behavior & Society, Center for Communication Programs , Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health , Baltimore , MD , USA.
AIDS Care (Impact Factor: 1.6). 07/2012; DOI: 10.1080/09540121.2012.701721
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Abstract Although some cultural practices have been identified as a determinant of HIV transmission, research investigating how specific practices affect HIV risk is lacking. In Malawi, initiation rites, in which young people attend ceremonies around the time of puberty, have received little attention. In this qualitative study, we explored whether communities in southern Malawi perceive initiation rites to be an HIV risk factor for girls. Twelve focus group discussions were held with adolescents and adults in a rural community of Thyolo district and a peri-urban community of Mangochi district. Community members observed that certain aspects of traditional initiation rites propel girls into sexual roles expected of adulthood, without facilitating their adaption to the emerging landscape of HIV, thereby increasing HIV risk. HIV prevention programming needs to address the role of initiation rites in adolescent girls' vulnerability to HIV and help young girls navigate the conflicting messages they receive from a wide range of channels about expected sexual behavior.

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