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When Knowledge is not Enough: HIV/AIDS Information and Risky Behavior in Botswana

  • James A. Levinsohn
  • Taryn Dinkelman
  • Rolang Majelantle

The spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still fueled by ignorance in many parts of the world. Filling in knowledge gaps, particularly between men and women, is considered key to preventing future infections and to reducing female vulnerabilities to the disease. However, such knowledge is arguably only a necessary condition for targeting these objectives. In this paper, we describe the extent to which HIV/AIDS knowledge is correlated with less risky sexual behavior. We ask: even when there are no substantial knowledge gaps between men and women, do we still observe sex-specific differentials in sexual behavior that would increase vulnerability to infection? We use data from two recent household surveys in Botswana to address this question. We show that even when men and women have very similar types of knowledge, they have different probabilities of reporting safe sex. Our findings are consistent with the existence of non-informational barriers to behavioral change, some of which appear to be sex-specific. The descriptive exercise in this paper suggests that it may be overly optimistic to hope for reductions in risky behavior through the channel of HIV-information provision alone.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12418.

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Date of creation: Aug 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12418
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  1. Cohen, Barney, 1998. "The emerging fertility transition in sub-Saharan Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(8), pages 1431-1461, August.
  2. Peter Glick & David Sahn, 2007. "Changes in HIV/AIDS knowledge and testing behavior in Africa: how much and for whom?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 383-422, April.
  3. Mark Gersovitz, 2005. "The HIV Epidemic in Four African Countries Seen through the Demographic and Health Surveys," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 14(2), pages 191-246, June.
  4. Nnko, Soori & Boerma, J.T.J Ties & Urassa, Mark & Mwaluko, Gabriel & Zaba, Basia, 2004. "Secretive females or swaggering males?: An assessment of the quality of sexual partnership reporting in rural Tanzania," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 299-310, July.
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