Religious Involvement and HIV Risk: Initial Results from a Panel Study of Rural Malawians

Jenny Trinitapoli, University of Texas at Austin

Although some scholars have identified religion as a possibly important protective factor in the AIDS pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa, evidence concerning the relationship between religion and AIDS behavior there remains sparse. Using a sample of married men from rural Malawi, we examine whether or not AIDS risk behavior and perceived risk are associated with religious affiliation or with religious involvement. Our analyzes of survey data from the Malawi Diffusion and Ideational Change Project (2001) reveal few differences in risk-behavior and perceived risk according to religious affiliation. However, regular attendance at religious service is associated both with reduced odds of reporting extramarital partners and with lower levels of perceived risk of infection. Qualitative data analyzes of religious services in rural Malawi (2004) reveal that messages concerning morality in general, sexual morality in particular, illness, and HIV may constitute a key pathway in support of the survey evidence.

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Presented in Session 80: Religion and Religiosity: Trends and Patterns