HIV Risk Among Displaced Adolescent Girls in Ethiopia: the Role of Gender Attitudes and Self-Esteem

Laura Gauer Bermudez, Gary Yu, Lily Lu, Kathryn Falb, Jennate Eoomkham, Gizman Abdella, Lindsay Stark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa have been deemed one of the most critical populations to address in the campaign for an HIV-free generation. Experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV), harmful gender norms, diminished personal agency, and age-disparate sex have been identified as factors in the increasing rate of new infections among this population. Using baseline data from a cluster-randomized controlled trial in three refugee camps in Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State in Ethiopia, our study quantitatively examined the associations between HIV risk factors, attitudes on gender inequality, IPV acceptability, and self-esteem for female adolescent refugees primarily from Sudan and South Sudan (n = 919). In multivariate models, adjusting for age and education, results showed girls who were more accepting of gender inequitable norms and IPV had greater odds of ever experiencing forced (OR 1.40, CI 1.15–1.70; OR 1.66, CI 1.42–1.94) or transactional sex (OR 1.28, CI 1.05–1.55; OR 1.59, CI 1.37–1.85) compared to girls who demonstrated less approval. Higher self-esteem was associated with increased odds of condom use (OR 1.13, CI 1.02–1.24) as well as decreased odds of adolescent marriage (OR 0.93, CI 0.90–0.95), age-disparate sex (OR 0.90, CI 0.86–0.94), and transactional sex (OR 0.96, CI 0.93–0.99). The findings suggest acceptance of inequitable gender norms (including those that perpetuate violence against women) and low self-esteem to be associated with common HIV risk factors among refugee adolescents living in Ethiopia. Greater attention towards the intersections of gender equality and self-valuation is needed when seeking to understand HIV risk among refugee adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-146
Number of pages10
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2019


  • Adolescent marriage
  • Age-disparate sex
  • Condom use
  • Refugees
  • Transactional sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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