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Gender roles and HIV sexual risk vulnerability of Roma (Gypsies) men and women in Bulgaria and Hungary: an ethnographic study. AIDS Care 2004 Feb;16(2):231-45



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-0842309126   45 Citations


Roma, the largest ethnic minority group in Central and Eastern Europe, have cultures that are traditional, often closed, and autonomous of majority populations. Roma communities are characterized by pervasive social health problems, widespread poverty, limited educational opportunities, and discrimination. Although some evidence suggests high levels of HIV sexual risk behaviour among Roma, little is known about the cultural and social context in which risk behaviour occurs. In-depth interviews were used to elicit detailed information about types of sexual partnerships and sexual risk behaviour practices occurring in them, use and perception of protection, knowledge and beliefs about AIDS and STDs, and sexual communication patterns in a sample of 42 men and women aged 18-52 living in Roma community settlements in Bulgaria and Hungary. Analysis of the interview data revealed that men have great sexual freedom before and during marriage, engage in a wide range of unprotected practices with primary and multiple outside partners, and have much more relationship power and control. In contrast, women are expected to maintain virginity before marriage and then sexual exclusivity to their husbands. Condom use is not normative and is mainly perceived as a form of contraception. Although awareness of AIDS was common, it was generally not perceived as a personal threat. Misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted are widespread, and women - in particular - had very little knowledge about STDs, HIV transmission, and protective steps. There is an urgent need for the development of HIV prevention programs culturally sensitive to Roma populations in Eastern Europe, where HIV rates are rapidly rising.

Author List

Kelly JA, Amirkhanian YA, Kabakchieva E, Csepe P, Seal DW, Antonova R, Mihaylov A, Gyukits G


Yuri A. Amirkhanian PhD Professor in the Psychiatry department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Jeffrey A. Kelly PhD Professor in the Psychiatry department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Attitude to Health
Cohort Studies
Gender Identity
HIV Infections
Middle Aged
Sexual Behavior