Extramarital sexual practices and perceived association with HIV infection among the Borana pastoral community

  • Mirgissa Kaba
  • Ibrahim Ame
  • Damen Haile Mariam


Abstract Background: Evidence has shown that in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV spreads mainly through heterosexual relationships. It is documented that, among others, the problem is more pronounced in connection to prevailing multiple sexual relations and marital infidelity. Despite evident association between such practice and spread in HIV infection, to date multiple sexual partnerships is a common practice. Among the Borana pastoral community, where awareness about HIV and AIDS is documented to be limited, engagement in extramarital sexual practice is believed to be the norm rather than exception. However, it remains unclear as to why the practice continues and if the community feels its consequences. Objectives: To explore if and why extramarital sexual practice is maintained and sustained and perceived vulnerability to HIV infection among the Borana pastoral community. Methods: An ethnographic study design was employed to responds to the objectives of this study. Such questions: whether extramarital sex is still practiced, if so why? Who practices it, whether the community is aware of the consequence of such practice vis-a-vis HIV infection, were set to be answered. A total of nine FGDs with sixty-eight participants and sixty in-depth interviews with men and women participated in the study. Information so generated was coded, categorized and summarized with an application of MAXQDA version 10 qualitative data analysis software, and interpretation of the results was carried out based on the objectives of the study. Results: Sex before marriage is considered as a taboo and those involved are out-casted (cabana) from the normal life processes of the community. While young men may engage in sexual activity with married women even before marriage and continues to maintain extramarital partner (jaalto) after marriage, women’s engagement in the practice follows marriage. Participants agreed that although local culture ‘disproves’ it and the community recognizes the fact that it would facilitate HIV infection, extramarital sexual practice remains common in the community. Its persistence is attributed to multiple factors including personal interest to prove that one is wanted by the opposite sex given fulfillment of socially prescribed gender roles, and economic transactions between families of those involved. Despite consistent denial of the cultural approval of such practice and the growing concern over its consequences to the spread of HIV infection, extramarital sexual activity remains to be valued and cherished in the community. Conclusion: Despite the widespread recognition of the consequences of extramarital sex on the spread of HIV infection, there is vested interest among the community numbers to maintain the practice. This calls for urgent action to launch culturally sound HIV interventions to mitigate further spread of HIV infection in Borana. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2013;27(1):25-32]
How to Cite
Kaba, M., Ame, I., & Haile Mariam, D. (2016). Extramarital sexual practices and perceived association with HIV infection among the Borana pastoral community. The Ethiopian Journal of Health Development (EJHD), 27(1). Retrieved from https://ejhd.org/index.php/ejhd/article/view/178
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