Differences in HIV-related behaviors at Lugufu refugee camp and surrounding host villages, Tanzania

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An HIV behavioral surveillance survey was undertaken in November 2005 at Lugufu refugee camp and surrounding host villages, located near western Tanzania's border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).


The sample size was 1,743 persons based on cluster survey methodology. All members of selected households between 15-49 years old were eligible respondents. Questions included HIV-related behaviors, population displacement, mobility, networking and forced sex. Data was analyzed using Stata to measure differences in proportions (chi-square) and differences in means (t-test) between gender, age groups, and settlement location for variables of interest.


Study results reflect the complexity of factors that may promote or inhibit HIV transmission in conflict-affected and displaced populations. Within this setting, factors that may increase the risk of HIV infections among refugees compared to the population in surrounding villages include young age of sexual initiation among males (15.9 years vs. 19.8 years, p=.000), highrisk sex partners in the 15-24 year age group (40% vs. 21%, 2 33.83, p=.000), limited access to income (16% vs. 51% 2 222.94, p=.000), and the vulnerability of refugee women, especially widowed, divorced and never-married women, to transactional sex (married vs. never married, divorced, widowed: for 15-24 age group, 4% and 18% respectively, 2 8.07, p=.004; for 25-49 age group, 4% and 23% respectively, 2 21.46, p=.000). A majority of both refugee and host village respondents who experienced forced sex in the past 12 months identified their partner as perpetrator (64% camp and 87% in villages). Although restrictions on movements in and out of the camp exist, there was regular interaction between communities. Condom use was found to be below 50%, and expanded population networks may also increase opportunities for HIV transmission. Availability of refugee health services may be a protective factor. Most respondents knew where to go for HIV testing (84% of refugee respondents and 78% of respondents in surrounding villages), while more refugees than respondents from villages had ever been tested (42% vs. 22%, 2 63.69, p=.000).


This research has important programmatic implications. Regardless of differences between camp and village populations, study results point to the need for targeted activities within each population. Services should include youth education and life skills programs emphasizing the benefits of delayed sexual initiation and the risks involved in transactional sex, especially in the camp where greater proportions of youth are affected by these issues relative to the surrounding host villages. As well, programs should stress the importance of correct and consistent condom use to increase usage in both populations. Further investigation into forced sex within regular partnerships, and programs that encourage male involvement in addressing this issue are needed. Program managers should verify that current commodity distribution systems ensure vulnerable women's access to resources, and consider additional program responses.