Temporal dynamics of religion as a determinant of HIV infection in East Zimbabwe: A serial cross-sectional analysis

Rumbidzai Manzou, Christina Schumacher, Simon Gregson

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14 Scopus citations


Background: Religion is an important underlying determinant of HIV spread in sub-Saharan Africa. However, little is known about how religion influences changes in HIV prevalence and associated sexual behaviours over time. Objectives: To compare changes in HIV prevalence between major religious groups in eastern Zimbabwe during a period of substantial HIV risk reduction (1998-2005) and to investigate whether variations observed can be explained by differences in behaviour change. Methods: We analysed serial cross-sectional data from two rounds of a longitudinal population survey in eastern Zimbabwe. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression models were developed to compare differences in sexual behaviour and HIV prevalence between religious groups and to investigate changes over time controlling for potential confounders. Results: Christian churches were the most popular religious grouping. Over time, Spiritualist churches increased in popularity and, for men, Traditional religion and no religion became less and more common, respectively. At baseline (1998-2000), HIV prevalence was higher in Traditionalists and in those with no religion than in people in Christian churches (men 26.7% and 23.8% vs. 17.5%, women: 35.4% and 37.5% vs. 24.1%). These effects were explained by differences in socio-demographic characteristics (for Traditional and men with no religion) or sexual behaviour (women with no religion). Spiritualist men (but not women) had lower HIV prevalence than Christians, after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics (14.4% vs. 17.5%, aOR = 0.8), due to safer behaviour. HIV prevalence had fallen in all religious groups at follow-up (2003-2005). Odds of infection in Christians reduced relative to those in other religious groups for both sexes, effects that were mediated largely by greater reductions in sexual-risk behaviour and, possibly, for women, by patterns of conversion between churches. Conclusion: Variation in behavioural responses to HIV between the major church groupings has contributed to a change in the religious pattern of infection in eastern Zimbabwe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere86060
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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