Postpartum sexual abstinence in the era of AIDS in Ghana: prospects for change




Awusabo-Asare, Kofi
Anarfi, John Kwasi

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Health Transition Centre, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University


Postpartum sexual abstinence for females has been identified as one of the socio-cultural factors with the potential for creating conditions for the sexual spread of HIV in areas where it is practised. In general, women are expected to abstain from sex after childbirth in order to ensure the survival of the mother and child. Men are not similarly expected to abstain and that has been used to rationalize polygyny. With changes in socio-economic conditions making it more difficult now than before to maintain two or more wives, particularly in urban areas, some men will abstain like their wives for fear of HIV infection; but such men may press their wives to resume sex early. Some women, on the other hand, may give in to the demands of their husbands by reducing the prescribed duration of postpartum abstinence. If this happens without the use of effective modern contraception, fertility may be affected. Some may also enter short or long-term relationships outside marriage, hoping that they will be safe from sexually transmitted infection. Using data from the Ghana segment of the Social Dimensions of AIDS Infection Survey, the study examines the responses of women who reported postpartum sexual abstinence and that of their partners. Both men and women reported abstaining, but some women were aware that their partners did not abstain as they did. Some of the women knew the sexual partners of their partners. Mostly it was men who made the first move to resume sex. For any behavioural change to occur, attitudes towards socially-constructed practices such as postpartum sexual abstinence will need to be changed by intensive education of both men and women and also through community support.



Ghana, HIV/AIDS, postpartum sexual abstinence, polygyny, socio-demographic, sexual relations




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