Women's land ownership and risk of HIV infection in Kenya

Felix M. Muchomba, Julia Shu Huah Wang, Laura Maria Agosta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Theory predicts that land ownership empowers women to avoid HIV acquisition by reducing their reliance on risky survival sex and enhancing their ability to negotiate safer sex. However, this prediction has not been tested empirically. Using a sample of 5511 women working in the agricultural sector from the 1998, 2003 and 2008-09 Kenya Demographic and Health Surveys, we examined the relationship between women's land ownership and participation in transactional sex, multiple sexual partnerships and unprotected sex, and HIV infection status. We controlled for demographic characteristics and household wealth, using negative binomial and logistic regression models. Women's land ownership wasassociated with fewer sexual partners in the past year (incidence rate ratio, 0.98; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.95-1.00) and lower likelihood of engaging in transactional sex (odds ratio [OR], 0.67; 95% CI: 0.46-0.99), indicators of reduced survival sex, but was not associated with unprotected sex with casual partners (OR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.35-1.18) or with unprotected sex with any partner among women with high self-perceived HIV risk (OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.57-1.84), indicating no difference in safer sex negotiation. Land ownership was also associated with reduced HIV infection among women most likely to engage in survival sex, i.e., women not under the household headship of a husband (OR, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.18-0.89), but not among women living in husband-headed households, for whom increased negotiation for safer sex would be more relevant (OR, 1.74; 95% CI, 0.92-3.29). These findings suggest that reinforcing women's land rights may reduce reliance on survival sex and serve as a viable structural approach to HIV prevention, particularly for women not in a husband's household, including unmarried women and female household heads.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-102
Number of pages6
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • HIV
  • Kenya
  • Land ownership
  • Poverty
  • Risk behavior
  • Women


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