The association of women’s empowerment with HIV-related indicators: A pooled analysis of demographic and health surveys in sub-Saharan Africa



Women’s empowerment is an important factor for HIV prevention, but the association with HIV-related indicators has never been quantified. In this study, we examined the association between women’s empowerment and selected HIV-related indicators.


We used the latest Demographic and Health Surveys that included HIV testing among other biomarkers of 31 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Empowerment was measured by the Survey-based Women’s EmPowERment (SWPER) index and was compared to the HIV-related indicators: HIV status, HIV testing (ever and in the past 12 months), condom use at last high-risk sex, the ability to ask the partner to use a condom, and the ability to refuse sex.


208,947 women were included in the analysis, of whom 100,924 (48%) were considered highly empowered and 21,933 (10%) as lowly empowered. There was no association between empowerment and HIV status (OR = 1.12, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.98–1.28). Highly empowered women were more likely to have ever been tested for HIV (OR = 1.67, 95% CI 1.60–1.74) but less likely to have been tested for HIV in the past 12 months (OR = 0.92, 95%CI 0.88–0.96). Highly empowered women were more commonly able to ask the partner to use a condom (OR = 1.69, 95% CI 1.63–1.75) and to refuse sex (OR = 1.78, 95%CI 1.72–1.85).


Women’s empowerment does not seem to be linked to HIV status, but it is strongly associated with a woman’s ability to make decisions about their sexual behavior. Empowering women and young girls has the potential to contribute toward achieving the United Nations’ goal of ending AIDS by 2030.


Schierl T, Tanaka LF, Klug SJ, Winkler AS, Stelzle D




  • Epidemiology and Determinants of Health
    • Epidemiology
  • Population(s)
    • Women
    • General HIV- population
  • Prevention, Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Prevention
  • Prevention
    • Sexual risk behaviour
  • Testing
    • Testing


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