Kagera is one of the 22 regions of Tanzania mainland, which has witnessed a decline in HIV prevalence during the past two decades; decreasing from 24% in 1987 to 4.7 in 2009 in the urban district of Bukoba. Access to social capital, both structural and cognitive, might have played a role in this development. The aim was to examine the association between individual structural and cognitive social capital and socio-economic characteristics and the likelihood of being HIV infected.
We conducted a population-based cross-sectional study of 3586 participants, of which 3423 (95%) agreed to test for HIV following pre-test counseling. The HIV testing was performed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) antibody detection tests. Multiple logistic regression analysis was applied to estimate the impact of socio-economic factors, individual structural and cognitive social capital and HIV sero-status.
Individuals who had access to low levels of both structural and cognitive individual social capital were four and three times more likely to be HIV positive compared to individuals who had access to high levels. The associations remained statistically significant for both individual structural and cognitive social capital after adjusting for potential confounding factors such as age, sex, marital status, occupation, level of education and wealth index (OR =8.6, CI: 5.7-13.0 and OR =2.4, CI: 1.6-3.5 for individual structural and cognitive social capital respectively). For both women and men access to high levels of individual structural and cognitive social capital decreased the risk of being HIV infected. This study confirms previous qualitative studies indicating that access to structural and cognitive social capital is protective to HIV infection.