Research articles

Practice of sumo kodhi among the Luo and implications for HIV transmission in western Kenya

Published in: African Journal of AIDS Research
Volume 13, issue 4, 2014 , pages: 383–391
DOI: 10.2989/16085906.2014.985238
Author(s): Charles Omondi Olang'oSociology and Anthropology, Kenya, Erick NyambedhaSociology and Anthropology, Kenya, Jens Aagaard-HansenSteno Health Promotion Center, Denmark


This paper discusses the practice of sumo kodhi among the Luo ethnic group and its implications for spread of HIV in western Kenya. Sumo kodhi is a practice in which a woman arranges to have sex with a man other than her legitimate sexual partner (husband or levir/inheritor) to give birth to children with specific qualities she wants in them. Data were drawn from a 16-month ethnographic study on reproductive aspirations of women living with HIV/AIDS (WLWHA). The study found that WLWHA engaged in sumo kodhi as they believe they will get gender balanced, beautiful, and academically talented and healthy children who are free from HIV. The WLWHA targeted agnates of their husbands living in distant villages, former boyfriends (before marriage) and other men who were new in the area such as civil servants, employees in local institutions and businessmen who would not suspect their HIV status. These WLWHA kept their HIV status secret and exposed the targeted men to the risk of being infected with HIV. It can be deduced that having knowledge of HIV status does not always translate into taking action towards protecting sexual partner(s). Moreover, continued childbearing is not always as a result of unmet contraceptives needs. It is apparent from this study that social factors sometimes overrule health considerations. The study recommends that further research be conducted among other ethnic groups to gauge whether they also have a practice similar to sumo kodhi. Women living with HIV/AIDS should be involved in HIV/AIDS control and prevention strategies. There is also need for an intervention that would ensure that WLWHA meet their reproductive aspirations without putting their sexual partners at risk of contracting HIV.

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