Coping strategies of HIV-affected households in Ghana

Laar AK, Manu A, Laar M, El-Adas A, Amenyah R, Atuahene K, Quarshie D Adjei AA Quakyi I (2015)



HIV and negative coping mechanisms have a cyclical relationship. HIV infections may lead to the adoption of coping strategies, which may have undesired, negative consequences. We present data on the various coping mechanisms that HIV-affected households in Ghana resort to.


We collected data on coping strategies, livelihood activities, food consumption, and asset wealth from a nationally representative sample of 1,745 Ghanaian HIV-affected households. We computed coping strategies index (CSI), effective dependency rate, and asset wealth using previously validated methodologies.


Various dehumanizing coping strategies instituted by the HIV-affected households included skipping an entire day’s meal (13%), reducing portion sizes (61.3%), harvesting immature crops (7.6%), and begging (5.6%). Two-thirds of the households were asset poor. Asset-poor households had higher CSI than asset-rich households (p <0.001). CSI were also higher among female-headed households and lower where the education level of the household head is higher. Households caring for chronically ill members recorded higher CSI in comparison with their counterparts without the chronically ill (p < 0.05).


Institution of degrading measures by HIV-affected households in reaction to threat of food insecurity was prevalent. The three most important coping strategies used by households were limiting portion size (61.3%), reducing number of meals per day (59.5%) and relying on less expensive foods (56.2%). The least employed strategies included household member going begging (5.6%), eating elsewhere (8.7%) and harvesting immature crop (7.6%).

Given that household assets, and caring for the chronically ill were associated with high CSI, a policy focusing on helping HIV-affected households gradually build up their asset base, or targeting households caring for chronically ill member(s) with conditional household-level support may be reasonable.

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