Household food insecurity has emerged as a very powerful predictor of poor health among people living with HIV (PLHIV), predicting increased risk of HIV transmission as well as poor HIV outcomes. Household water insecurity (WI) may be equally or more powerfully predictive of HIV-related outcomes, but strikingly, its role in HIV outcomes has been almost entirely overlooked. Indeed, because there is currently no validated scale for assessing household access to water in suf?cient quantity and quality, it has not been possible to measure the consequences of WI. Therefore, the scienti?c objective of this application is to elucidate the role of house- hold WI in poor health outcomes among HIV-infected women and their infants in Nyanza, Western Kenya. This research will further the long-term goal of understanding the behavioral and psychological coping mechanisms that HIV-infected mothers use to preserve their health and that of their infants. The central hypothesis is that WI is detrimental to this population in economic, nutritional, disease, and psychosocial domains, and in ways distinct from food insecurity. This hypothesis was guided by preliminary data from the investigators' ongoing K01-funded cohort in Nyanza, and will be tested via 3 speci?c aims. First, a household WI scale will be developed based on prior research and formative research in Kenya (Aim 1). It will then be piloted and validated (Aim 2). The resultant scale will then be used to assess differences in WI by HIV status and sequelae of WI among 360 women and their infants in the PI's ongoing cohort (Aim 3). It is hypothesized that the prevalence of WI will be greater among HIV-infected women, and that it will be associated with worse outcomes, including greater viral load, diarrhea, stress, depression, and sub-optimal infant feeding practices. This research is highly signi?cant because a) water scarcity is a widespread and growing problem, often occurring in places with high HIV prevalence; b) women bear the major burden of water acquisition and use; and c) there are a number of highly plausible and serious health consequences of WI for HIV-infected women (e.g. diarrhea) and their infants (e.g. less exclusive breastfeeding) given the compromised immunity of PLHIV, their greater water needs, and lesser abilities to access water. With a better understanding of how household WI is deleterious, it will be possible to design more effective interventions to improve the health of HIV-infected mothers and their HIV-ex- posed infants, as well as among people not directly impacted by HIV. This research is innovative for its use of cutting-edge qualitative and quantitative methods to develop the ?rst validated household WI scale and because it will generate novel data to test hypotheses about the pathways by which WI may impact the health of HIV-infected mothers and their infants. The expected outcomes include the ?rst validated household-level WI scale, which will be ready for adaptation among other populations, and an increase in our understanding of the barriers to optimal health faced by HIV-infected mothers, thereby highlighting novel ways to eventually intervene to reduce the risk of poor health outcomes among PLHIV and reduce vertical transmission of HIV.

Public Health Relevance

Although HIV-infected women and their infants are often at high risk of not having access to suf?cient water, strikingly, the extent and mechanisms by which household water insecurity affects their physical and mental well-being have not been investigated. The proposed research will yield the ?rst validated scale for assessing household-level water insecurity, and will shed light on the disease, economic, nutritional, and psychosocial pathways by which water insecurity can harm HIV-infected women and their infants by implementing the scale in an ongoing, longitudinal, K01-funded cohort. This research is relevant to public health because of the highly plausible and serious, but currently unmeasurable, consequences of household water insecurity, and because it can eventually be used to develop interventions that promote physical and mental health among HIV-infected mothers and their HIV-exposed infants, and may prevent new HIV infections by decreasing behaviors associated with increased risk of vertical transmission, e.g. short durations of exclusive breastfeeding.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Behavioral and Social Consequences of HIV/AIDS Study Section (BSCH)
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Senn, Theresa Elaine
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Northwestern University at Chicago
Social Sciences
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Krumdieck, Natalie R; Collins, Shalean M; Wekesa, Pauline et al. (2016) Household water insecurity is associated with a range of negative consequences among pregnant Kenyan women of mixed HIV status. J Water Health 14:1028-1031