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Aim: Women and girls living with or at high risk of acquiring HIV (WGL&RHIV) in Africa are economically vulnerable. This study aims to advance understanding of the economic impact of COVID-19 on WGL&RHIV and to identify the factors associated with this insecurity.
Methods: Data were collected from a cross-sectional survey conducted among a convenience sample of WGL&RHIV in Nigeria between May and September 2021. Logistic regressions enabled the study of the role of HIV status, mental health and macrosocial characteristics (people with disability, transgender women, sex workers, persons engaged in transactional sex, substance users, and people on the move) on economic vulnerability, measured by food, financial and housing insecurity, since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The model accounted for the possible interactions between the macrosocial characteristics and controlled for confounders.
Results: There were 3 313 (76.1%) of 4 355 respondents facing food insecurity, 3 664 (83.6%) of 4 385 with financial vulnerability and 1 282 (36.2%) of 3 544 with housing insecurity. Being a member of the key and vulnerable groups was strongly associated with food insecurity, financial vulnerability and housing insecurity, regardless of HIV serostatus. For example, WGL&RHIV engaging in transactional sex were more than four times more likely (aOR 4.42; 95% CI 2.57–7.59) to face housing insecurity and more than twice more likely to face food insecurity (aOR 2.47, 95% CI 1.35–4.52) and financial vulnerability (aOR 2.87, 95% CI 1.39–5.93). This economic vulnerability may reduce their negotiating power for safer sex or the use of HIV prevention methods, exposing them to increased risks of HIV infection. Poor mental health was also associated with the three forms of economic vulnerability.
Conclusions: As the long-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis on African economies unfolds, HIV programmes at the country level must include economic vulnerability and mental unwellness mitigation activities for WGL&RHIV.