Trading sex for security: Unemployment and the unequal HIV burden among young women in developing nations
Young women in their late teens and early twenties are especially susceptible to HIV infection in developing nations, as incidence of HIV is growing most rapidly among females aged 15–24 years. While prior research considers the role of various social and economic gender stratification measures to explain trends in the female HIV burden, the potential influence of unemployment has not yet been considered, nor has there been explicit focus on the empirical drivers of young women’s HIV. This article considers the role of unemployment in predicting the female HIV burden among 15- to 24-year-olds using regression analyses. The results demonstrate that unemployment among young women significantly impacts the proportion of female HIV cases among those aged 15–24. However, labor force participation also does not guarantee against HIV transmission. These results support ideas related to the increased likelihood of concurrent partners, transactional sex, and ‘sugar daddies’ among young women who are unemployed, having a lack of means to meet their resource needs otherwise. The patterns revealed demonstrate the importance of economic insecurity through unemployment in contributing to the HIV burden among young women in developing nations.