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The Virgin HIV Puzzle: Can Misreporting Account for the High Proportion of HIV Cases in Self-Reported Virgins?


  • Eva Deuchert



It is widely believed that HIV is predominantly sexually transmitted in Sub Saharan Africa. This claim which is inconsistent with national representative data from Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland, which reveals that a significant proportion of HIV infections occurred in adolescents who claim to be virgins. Two explanations for this observation have been proposed: adolescents misreport sexual status or non-sexual risks are more prevalent than previously asserted. This paper empirically uncovers the implicit assumptions underlying this discussion, by estimating the proportion of sexually transmitted HIV infections assuming that misreporting is irrelevant, and the proportion of misreporting necessary to conclude that HIV is predominantly sexually transmitted. It shows that under the no-misreporting assumption, 70% of HIV cases in the respective sample of unmarried adolescent women is not due to sexual transmission. The assumption that HIV is predominantly sexually transmitted is only valid, if more than 55% of unmarried adolescent women who are sexually active have misreported sexual activity status. This research is designed to gain better understanding on the importance of different transmission modes. This is important to design combination prevention to achieve maximum impact on HIV prevention.

Suggested Citation

  • Eva Deuchert, 2010. "The Virgin HIV Puzzle: Can Misreporting Account for the High Proportion of HIV Cases in Self-Reported Virgins?," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2010 2010-24, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  • Handle: RePEc:usg:dp2010:2010-24

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Emily Oster, 2005. "Sexually Transmitted Infections, Sexual Behavior, and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 467-515.
    2. Catharina Hjortsberg, 2003. "Why do the sick not utilise health care? The case of Zambia," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(9), pages 755-770.
    3. de Walque, Damien, 2007. "How does the impact of an HIV/AIDS information campaign vary with educational attainment? Evidence from rural Uganda," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 686-714, November.
    4. David E. Sahn & Stephen D. Younger & Garance Genicot, 2003. "The Demand for Health Care Services in Rural Tanzania," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 65(2), pages 241-260, May.
    5. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.88.1.15_8 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Damien de Walque, 2007. "Sero-Discordant Couples in Five African Countries: Implications for Prevention Strategies," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 33(3), pages 501-523.
    7. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ibrahim Kasirye, 2016. "HIV/AIDS Sero-prevalence and Socio-economic Status: Evidence from Uganda," African Development Review, African Development Bank, vol. 28(3), pages 304-318, September.

    More about this item


    Population attributable fraction; non-classical measurement error; HIV transmission mode;

    JEL classification:

    • C13 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Estimation: General
    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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