10 Major Factors That Contribute to the Spread of HIV/AIDS in the Developing World

Updated on September 20, 2018
Jan Saints profile image

Januaris is a social science researcher. He mainly researches on social contexts and behavioral factors that impact HIV/AIDS prevention.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), the developing countries have the highest number of HIV/AIDS infections in the whole world. There are approximately 32 million people living with the virus in these countries.

The worst hit regions include Sub-Saharan Africa, Caribbean, and South-East Asia. The countries with the highest HIV prevalence rates and the largest number of HIV-positive people in these regions include South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Mozambique, Ghana, Bahamas, Belize, Jamaica, Haiti, India, Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

The spread of the virus decreased from 15% in 1990 to around 8% in 2015, but more than 6 million new infections occur every year in these countries. This is according to Center for Disease Control (CDC).

In this article, I am going to discuss the major factors that fuel the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Third World countries. Read on to learn about these factors and some ways that I have recommended to help reduce the epidemic.

HIV/AIDS Prevalence High in Developing World
HIV/AIDS Prevalence High in Developing World | Source

Factors that Influence the Spread of HIV/AIDS in Developing Countries, in Brief

  • Promiscuity
  • Ignorance
  • Illiteracy
  • Poverty
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • HIV/AIDS stigma
  • Cultural factors
  • Lack of access to maternal services
  • Tribal conflicts and civil wars
  • Immigration and movement of people

1. Promiscuity

Promiscuity is now the leading cause of the spread of HIV in the developing regions. Many people are having more than one sexual partner, and also prostitution is common in the regions (Hilary Heuler, VOA).

Promiscuity is being practiced by both young adults and married people. A big number of people in relationships are practicing infidelity without caring about its consequences. Surprising studies show that more than 60% of new infections are occurring in married people (Choi K.H., Gibson D.R., Han L., Guo Y.).

2. Ignorance

Most people living in these regions are fully aware of the disease, but they continue to get involved in practices that fuel its transmission. This is ignorance, and it is adversely driving the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the whole world, not just the developing countries (Kelly M. J., Bain, B.).

Recently, an international media house reported that many Africans do not care about protecting themselves from the infection. HIV transmission can be prevented by condoms, but many people are reluctant to use them even when getting intimate with new partners.

3. Illiteracy

The Third World countries have a large percentage of people who know very little about HIV/AIDS. Most people know the disease exists, but they lack information about its aspects (Kelly M. J., Bain, B.).

Generally, the illiterate people don’t know anything about the HIV transmission ways and preventative measures, and they continue to engage in unsafe practices that spread the virus.These people are also easily influenced by the beliefs, myths, and misconceptions about the disease.

4. Poverty

The developing world has a large population of people living in poverty. Most poor people are forced to do anything to earn a living, including engaging in sexual activities which are a high-risk factor for the disease.

There have been many cases of young people getting involved in commercial sex in these countries. This activity has been studied to tremendously increase the disease prevalence. Poor people also have limited access to education which means that illiteracy is common among them (Scott E., Simon T., Foucade A., Theodore K., Gittens-Baynes K.).

5. Drug and Alcohol Use

Drug and alcohol use is quite common among the youth in the developing regions. According to studies, there have been consistent new HIV infections resulting from sharing of injectors among the drug users in these regions (Liu H., Grusky O., Li X., Ma E.).

There are also other ways in which alcoholism and drug use affects the spread of the disease in these countries. For example, the alcohol users find themselves not being able to make wise decisions when getting involved in sexual activities. On the other hand, people who are addicted to drugs are turning to careless sexual behaviors to relieve the pain and stress caused by the addiction.

6. HIV/AIDS Stigma

People living with the virus are still stigmatized in the developing world, and this is causing many people to avoid HIV testing. Most people who manage to get tested do not reveal their status if they have been found to have the virus. They also find it difficult to get antiretroviral (ARV) drugs or to use them in the presence of other people (Grant A.D.).

Those who do not know their status continue to get involved in high-risk behaviors and activities. According to HIV/AIDS specialists, people who are infected with the disease and are not using ARVs are spreading the virus more easily compared to those who are using them.

HIV/AIDS Stigma Still Experienced in Developing Countries
HIV/AIDS Stigma Still Experienced in Developing Countries | Source

7. Cultural Factors

The most common cultural factors fueling the spread of HIV/AIDS in the developing world include polygamy and wife inheritance. These cultural practices are specifically common in Africa (Susser I., Stein Z.).

In the case of polygamy, if one partner gets infected, he or she is highly likely to spread the virus to all the other partners. In these countries, most partners in a polygamous marriage are usually unfaithful which means that many of them introduce the virus to their marriages.

In wife inheritance, HIV spreading occurs if the new husband or the widow has the virus. According to researches, a large percentage of the widows are usually HIV positive.

8. Lack of Access to Maternity Services

The developing countries lack enough maternity services for all their pregnant women. Most women, especially those in remote areas, bear children without the help of trained healthcare providers (Grant A. D., Yousaf M.Z.).

Also, expectant mothers who are infected find it hard to get medical advice on how to keep their newborns free from the virus. So there are usually many cases of mother-to-child transmission in places with scarce maternity services in these countries.

9. Tribal Conflicts and Civil Wars

The Third World has been experiencing tribal conflicts and civil wars for a long time. The areas hit by these conflicts and wars do not have enough healthcare services to cater for the HIV/AIDS victims. These areas also do not get enough disease awareness programs and VCT services (Harris N., Yousaf M.Z.).

Most people affected by the conflicts and wars live in refugee camps. The camps are well known to be home to all sorts of evil, including drug abuse and prostitution which fuel the epidemic.

10. Immigration and Movement of People

First, HIV/AIDS was introduced in most of these developing regions by people from other countries (i.e., the developed ones). And even today, there is a big number of new infections that are caused by immigrants.

Second, the movement of people within these regions has been increasing the spread of the disease. Infected people spread the virus when they move to work or study in areas that are free from the disease. This is one of the reasons for the high prevalence rates in urban centers that are located along the major highways (Bond G., Howe D., Cobley A.)


According to my own studies, it can be possible to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in the developing countries. If the people can avoid promiscuous behaviors and become wiser, these countries can have very low or zero prevalence rates. The governments also have roles to play. They need to provide better healthcare to the people living with the virus and enhance the disease awareness. In simple terms, everyone has a role to play in fighting this epidemic, including those living in HIV-free regions. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I recommend that you get this reading material which features questions and answers about disease.

Everyone Has a Responsibility in Stopping HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Everyone Has a Responsibility in Stopping HIV/AIDS Epidemic | Source


  • Scott E., Simon T., Foucade A., Theodore K., Gittens-Baynes K. (2011). "Poverty, Employment and HIV/AIDS in Trinidad and Tobago". International Journal Of Business and Social Science. (2011).
  • Choi K.H., Gibson D.R., Han L., Guo Y. "High Levels of Unprotected Sex with Men and Women: A Potential Bridge of HIV Transmission in Beijing, China". dx.doi.org. AIDS Educ Prev. (2004).
  • AMS. AC. "Religious and Cultural Traits in HIV/AIDS Epidemics in Sub-Saharan Africa". ams.ac.ir. (PDF). (2010).
  • Hilary Heuler (via VOA). "Uganda's Soaring HIV Infection Rate Linked to Infidelity". voanews.com. (2013).
  • Daily Nation Kenya. "Kenya Ranked Fourth in HIV Infections". nation.co.ke. (2014).
  • Bond G. C. "AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean". Westview Press (1997).
  • Kelly M. J., Bain, B., CHAPTER 2: "The HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the Caribbean". In, Education and HIV/AIDS – UNESCO. (2004).
  • Glenford Deroy Howe and Alan Gregor Cobley. "The Caribbean AIDS Epidemic". University of the West Indies Press, Kingston, Jamaica. (2000).
  • Liu H., Grusky O., Li X., Ma E. "Drug Users: A Potentially Important Bridge Population in the Transmission of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Including AIDS, in China". dx.doi.org. (2006).
  • Harris N. “AIDS in Developing Countries”. dikseo.teimes.gr. (2003).
  • Susser I., Stein Z. "Culture, Sexuality, and Women's Agency in the Prevention of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa". dx.doi.org. American Journal of Public Health. (2000).
  • NCBI, NLM, NIH, "Choice-Disability and HIV Infection: A Cross Sectional Study of HIV Status in Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland". ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. (2012).
  • Fortunate, Edith. "Rich Kenyans Hardest Hit by HIV, says Study". nation.co.ke. Daily Nation. (2013).
  • W.H.O. "Expert Group Stresses that Unsafe Sex is Primary Mode of Transmission of HIV in Africa". (2003).
  • Yousaf M.Z. "The Epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Developing Countries; the Current Situation". virologyj.biomedcentral.com. Biomed Central. (‎2011).
  • Grant A.D. "HIV Infection and AIDS in the Developing World". bmj.com. The BMJ. ( 2001).
  • Grant A.D. "The Growing Challenge of HIV/AIDS in Developing Countries". bmb.oxfordjournals.org. Oxford Journals. ‎(1998).

What do you think can significantly reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Third World countries?

See results

Questions & Answers

  • What are some of the factors that fuel the spread of HIV/AIDS?

    Some factors include poor protection and poor working conditions.

  • How does polygamy lead to the spread of HIV/AIDS?

    Think about one partner going out and bringing the virus to the other partners in the marriage.

  • What are the factors fueling the spread of HIV/AIDS among medics in the developing world?

    Poor protection and poor working conditions are the most prominent factors.

  • What are the factors that have made it difficult to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS?

    - High Promiscuity

    - Ignorance

    - Illiteracy

    - Poverty

    - Drug and alcohol use

    - HIV/AIDS stigma

    - Cultural factors

    - Lack of access to maternal services

    - Tribal conflicts and civil wars

    - Immigration and movement of people

  • How is mass media contributing to the spread of HIV and Aids?

    Maybe through content that influences people to engage in risk behaviors.

© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Stephen kenya 

      8 weeks ago

      Amazing i will try to educate ma fellow villagers

    • profile image

      Musto Braint 

      2 months ago

      Thank you for the notes it has really taught me and I now understand and apply in my life practically.

    • Jan Saints profile imageAUTHOR

      Januaris Saint Fores 

      7 months ago from Intercontinental

      Yeah or vice versa (one woman married to more than one man which is rare). The spread happens when one goes out and brings the virus to the other two.

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      Answer it's through polygami a man having more than one wife at home?

    • profile image

      Big Jo 

      13 months ago

      Thank you Juan, very cool

    • Jan Saints profile imageAUTHOR

      Januaris Saint Fores 

      15 months ago from Intercontinental

      Ignorance, promiscuity, etc

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      what are the reasons contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS among the educated?

    • Jan Saints profile imageAUTHOR

      Januaris Saint Fores 

      16 months ago from Intercontinental

      Promiscuity, drug and alcohol use, etc

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Good day can you please the 7 common behavioural contributing factors identified in Namibia to further spread to HIV.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      plz give me a answer ... What are the 4 contributory factors to social problem locally on home HIV and AIDs

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Thanks I have got the needed points

    • Jan Saints profile imageAUTHOR

      Januaris Saint Fores 

      20 months ago from Intercontinental

      - Ignorance

      - Illiteracy

      - HIV/AIDS stigma

      - Cultural factors

      - Lack of access to awareness services

      - Tribal conflicts and civil wars

      - Etc

    • profile image


      20 months ago

      pls what are the factors that influence Hiv and Aids awareness

    • profile image


      21 months ago

      Very helpful content.

    • Jan Saints profile imageAUTHOR

      Januaris Saint Fores 

      23 months ago from Intercontinental

      Can't disagree!

    • profile image


      23 months ago

      The provision of education on HIV/AIDS to the developing world is of necessary for sustainable development.

    • profile image

      Jafet Karen 

      23 months ago

      Thanks. I got all what i was looking for. . Keep it up. .

    • profile image

      Victor Mboya 

      2 years ago

      Very intelligent points to remak

    • profile image

      Nyabuto jason 

      2 years ago

      Good content.thanks

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Helpful content

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      thanks for the tips

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Wow.... I got all what I was looking for.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      thanks alot


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)