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Abstract

Beyond the obvious catastrophic effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on mortality, demographic changes, and the suffering of individuals and their families, we are still only learning about the complex longer-term effects of the pandemic on poverty and vulnerability. For example, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has substantially increased the number of widow-headed households in Africa. A huge number of conceptual and qualitative studies highlight gender inequalities in property rights, and the difficulties that widows and their dependents face in retaining access to land after the death of their husbands. HIV/AIDS has undoubtedly exacerbated such problems. However, there remains limited quantitative evidence using representative survey data on the extent to which widows lose their rights to land after the death of their husbands, whether they lose all or part of the land they were formerly controlling, and whether there are certain characteristics of the widow, her deceased husband, and/or her household that influence the likelihood of her losing land rights. It is highly possible that government programs designed to provide a safety net to vulnerable groups may not reach their potential if they ignore gender dimensions of local institutions and property rights.

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