Pathways to HIV Risk among Orphan School Dropouts in Kenya

The HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa has resulted in millions of children being orphaned in that region. In Kenya alone, there were 2.3 million orphans, representing 13% of all Kenyans under 18 years old in 2006. Orphaned youth, compared to non-orphans, are more likely to drop out of school and to engage in HIV risk behaviors. Adolescence is a particularly critical time for both school dropout (e.g., when youth transition to secondary school) and HIV risk (when many youth experience sexual initiation and risk behavior). However, despite the remarkably high prevalence of youth being out of school in sub-Saharan Africa—orphans in particular—there is a lack of research on how social contextual factors protect against or exacerbate the likelihood of school dropout and engaging in HIV risk behaviors. Study aims are: (1) identify and describe key contextual factors that either protect orphans from or put them at risk of dropping out of school, and (2) examine key contextual factors that either protect orphans from or increase their risk of HIV infection. The study offers a unique opportunity to identify different risk groups for school dropout among orphan youth transitioning from primary to secondary school. 104 orphan youth were invited to participate in semi-structured interviews utilizing student survey data from an ongoing study. The qualitative study contributes to an in-depth understanding about processes related to school dropout and the interpersonal, community, and societal contexts in which they occur—all potential pathways to the risk of HIV infection. This information is vital to enhance structural preventive intervention strategies targeted at keeping youth in protective school environments. This research also is important for youth who have exited the school system so that programs and policies can be developed to encourage their return to school and mitigate any negative impact that out-of-school environments have on HIV risk.

Principal Investigators: Lisa D. Pearce, Hyunsan Cho

Funding Source: Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation Subcon NIH

Grant Number: R21MH105287

Funding Period: 1/23/2015 - 12/31/2016

Primary Research Area: Population Health

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