The proposed pre-doctoral fellowship project will examine the relationship of women's relative empowerment and its impact on women's risk of HIV/STD. Empowerment interventions with women have become one of the major approaches to women's sexual risk reduction, yet the empirical evidence of its impact in reducing sexual risk is limited. One critique is that empowerment programs are focused on women as individuals rather than taking into account their male, familial and community relationships. This proposed research seeks to test the widely accepted proposition that interventions that focus on empowerment are effective in reducing Zambian women's sexual risk. It also seeks to identify the nature of the relationship with women's primary male partner as a factor in both empowerment and sexual risk. Zambia is experiencing the health, economic, and social impacts of a mature HIV/AIDS epidemic, with a HIV prevalence of 14.3% for individuals between the ages of 15 and 49. The epidemic has affected all aspects of the social and economic growth and has devastated individual families, weakened all areas of the public sector, and threatened the long-term national development. Hence the need to minimize sexual risk and curb the spread of the epidemic is pressing.
The specific aims of this project are to: develop a local definition of women's empowerment, document the empowerment programs available to residents in the Kanyama township (Lusaka, Zambia), identify the range of variation in women's primary relationships with men, identify the level of exposure to intervention programs and its impact on both empowerment and sexual risk, assess the nature of women's partner relationship and its relationship to empowerment and sexual risk and conduct a multivariate analysis that identifies the relative strength of independent and mediating variables in predicting women's sexual risk. The project will employ both qualitative (key informant and in-depth interviewing) and quantitative (survey instrument) methods. This project is intended to provide the formative research results needed for the development of an expanded research grant by the applicant after her PhD is awarded;to contribute to available research on the role of empowerment in sexual risk reduction;and to generate data that can positively impact on the health and well being of women in Zambia.
The proposed pre-doctoral fellowship project will examine the relationship of women's relative empowerment and its impact on women's risk of HIV/STD. It also seeks to identify the nature of the relationship with women's primary male partner as a factor in both empowerment and sexual risk. By evaluating the effects of these two factors on women's sexual health outcomes, insight will be provided towards the design of culturally relevant interventions that will effectively reduce women's sexual risk.