Skip to main content

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

Fredrick 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 the social, economic, and cultural 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

Factors Causing 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.).

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

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

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


  • 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". AIDS Educ Prev. (2004).
  • AMS. AC. "Religious and Cultural Traits in HIV/AIDS Epidemics in Sub-Saharan Africa". (PDF). (2010).
  • Hilary Heuler (via VOA). "Uganda's Soaring HIV Infection Rate Linked to Infidelity". (2013).
  • Daily Nation Kenya. "Kenya Ranked Fourth in HIV Infections". (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". (2006).
  • Harris N. “AIDS in Developing Countries”. (2003).
  • Susser I., Stein Z. "Culture, Sexuality, and Women's Agency in the Prevention of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa". 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". (2012).
  • Fortunate, Edith. "Rich Kenyans Hardest Hit by HIV, says Study". 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". Biomed Central. (‎2011).
  • Grant A.D. "HIV Infection and AIDS in the Developing World". The BMJ. ( 2001).
  • Grant A.D. "The Growing Challenge of HIV/AIDS in Developing Countries". Oxford Journals. ‎(1998).

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

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

Answer: Some factors include poor protection and poor working conditions.

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

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

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

Answer: - 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

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

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

Question: What are cultural practices and taboos that fuel the spread of HIV in Kenya?

Answer: Wife inheritance, F . G . M, Circum., etc contributed to the spread.

Question: What are the contributing factors to society, locally and globally, for homes with HIV and AIDS?

Answer: Risky cultures, bad behaviors, etc. Read the article carefully!

Question: What are the cultural practices in Botswana that may increase the spread of HIV/AIDS?

Answer: Polygamy, wife inheritance, initiation, etc.

Question: what are the leading factors to AIDS?

Answer: Weak immune system, poor diets, not using ARVs, etc.

Question: What are the factors that cause HIV/AIDs?

Answer: It is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus.

Question: What are the social issues that increase the risk of HIV infection?

Answer: Promiscuity, homosexuality, prostitution, etc.

Question: What will lower the spread of HIV/AIDS?

Answer: HIV testing and awareness, improving healthcare, stopping risky behaviors and cultures, etc

Question: How is HIV spread from married couples?

Answer: Think about one partner going out and getting infected and bringing the virus to the other partner.

Question: Is religion a factor for the HIV epidemic? If yes, how?

Answer: Yes, there are some religious teachings and customs that increase the spread of the virus. For example, some don't support the use of condoms and others encourage forced marriages.

Question: Would you keep yourself away from people who have HIV/AIDS?

Answer: No, it is safe to interact with people with HIV/AIDS. You should however not have unprotected s@x with them or share items that can make you come into contact with their body fluids - mainly blood, vaginal secretions, and semen.

Question: What are the major psychological, social, biological and environmental factors that make university students more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS?

Answer: Peer pressure, excess freedom, gender genitalia, sharing contaminated utilities, etc.

Question: Has the HIV/AIDS pandemic been fueled by the African culture?

Answer: Yeah, but partly. Other factors also contribute as explained in the article.

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

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

Question: How are STIs correlated to HIV/AIDS?

Answer: They increase transmission - some cause lesions in the sexual organs creating easy path for the virus.

© 2015 Fredrick aka JS


Stephen kenya on November 25, 2019:

Amazing i will try to educate ma fellow villagers

Musto Braint on November 11, 2019:

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

Fredrick aka JS (author) from Intercontinental on June 10, 2019:

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.

Mr,Ezekiel on June 09, 2019:

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

Big Jo on November 30, 2018:

Thank you Juan, very cool

Fredrick aka JS (author) from Intercontinental on October 25, 2018:

Ignorance, promiscuity, etc


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

Fredrick aka JS (author) from Intercontinental on September 20, 2018:

Promiscuity, drug and alcohol use, etc

Maggy on September 20, 2018:

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

Asonele on September 12, 2018:

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

Jacinta on September 11, 2018:

Thanks I have got the needed points

Fredrick aka JS (author) from Intercontinental on May 13, 2018:

- Ignorance

- Illiteracy

- HIV/AIDS stigma

- Cultural factors

- Lack of access to awareness services

- Tribal conflicts and civil wars

- Etc

phatymaali on May 12, 2018:

pls what are the factors that influence Hiv and Aids awareness

Miya on April 09, 2018:

Very helpful content.

Fredrick aka JS (author) from Intercontinental on February 23, 2018:

Can't disagree!

SILVER on February 23, 2018:

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

Jafet Karen on February 16, 2018:

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

Victor Mboya on November 22, 2017:

Very intelligent points to remak

Nyabuto jason on October 28, 2017:

Good content.thanks

Ezekiel on October 05, 2017:

Helpful content

tofunmi on September 27, 2017:

thanks for the tips

Ebba on July 26, 2017:

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

escar on July 26, 2017:

thanks alot

Related Articles