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Exchange and Condom Use in Informal Sexual Relationships in Urban Kenya

Brown University

This article investigates whether a market for unsafe sexual activity exists among nonmarital, noncommercial sexual relationships in a high HIV/AIDS environment. The exchange of money for sex without a condom is well known within commercial sexual partnerships, but it is unclear from the previous evidence whether markets can emerge among noncommercial relationships as well. I use data on nonmarital sexual partnerships and transfers from Kisumu, Kenya, to investigate this question. I define and measure transfers as material items given by a male to his female sexual partner, including money and nonmonetary items, such as gifts, meals, and rent. I find a strong negative relationship between the level of transfers and condom use after controlling for male fixed effects and other important female and partnership characteristics. I also find that nonmonetary transfers have the same relationship with condom use as monetary transfers. Furthermore, I test the assumption that adolescent girls are particularly disadvantaged within informal partnerships, where men can offer remarkably small amounts of money or gifts in exchange for sex without a condom. Contrary to this popular assumption, the results reveal that the trade‐off between transfers and condom use does not differ between partnerships involving adolescent girls and adult females.