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Disco funerals: a risk situation for HIV infection among youth in Kisumu, Kenya

Njue, Carolynea; Voeten, Helene ACMa; Remes, Pieterb,c

doi: 10.1097/QAD.0b013e32832605d0
Epidemiology and Social

Objective: We investigated the so-called ‘disco funeral’ phenomenon in Kisumu, Kenya, whereby community members including adolescents congregate at the home of the deceased for several days, accompanied by music and dancing. We explored whether disco funerals are a risk situation for HIV/sexually transmitted infection infection among youth.

Design: Cross-sectional qualitative study.

Methods: We conducted 44 in-depth interviews with male and female adolescents aged 15–20 years in Kisumu municipality in Nyanza Province, Kenya. We also made observations during six disco funerals.

Results: Disco funerals were an important place for young people to hang out; they increased the opportunities to meet and engage in (risky) sexual activities. Many adolescents reported having casual sex on these occasions, sometimes with multiple partners, and mostly without condoms. Some girls were forced into sex, and there were several accounts of gang rape. Sex in exchange for money was reported frequently. Drugs and alcohol seemed to facilitate unprotected, multiple-partner, coerced, and transactional sex.

Conclusion: In Kisumu, a town with a generalized HIV/AIDS epidemic, the high AIDS mortality leads to frequent disco funerals. Because many adolescents are having unprotected, transactional, or coerced sex at these occasions, disco funerals might contribute to the high HIV prevalence among youth, especially among adolescent girls. HIV interventions urgently need to include outreach actions to youth who hang out at disco funerals and link up with parents and funeral organizers to reduce risk situations.

aDepartment of Public Health, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

bSocial and Public Health Sciences Unit, Medical Research Council, Glasgow, UK

cInstitute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium.

Received 6 October, 2008

Revised 29 November, 2008

Accepted 10 December, 2008

Correspondence to Carolyne Njue, MA P.O. Box 17915, 00100, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel: +254 720220777; e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.