Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name



International Affairs and Development Program

First Advisor

Dr. Patricia T. Morris


Having a healthy population is certainly an essential characteristic toward the sustainable development of any nation. Currently, however, AIDS has become a crucial factor throughout the globe, particularly for developing nations such as Kenya. In fact, Kenya has the highest count of AIDS cases throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Traditional practices observed in Western Kenya, particularly among the Luo people, are glaring in the literature as increasing one’s risk of AIDS. Certainly the meeting of traditional culture and Western oriented knowledge related to AIDS are problematic toward the prevention and mitigation of AIDS, especially as it impacts young people who are most vulnerable. This dissertation analyzed the relationships between gender, culture and education as determined by AIDS related knowledge, beliefs and practices among secondary school students in Kendu Bay, a rural area in Western Kenya. Data were collected from questionnaires administered to the students, focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews with public health specialists, teachers and elders who traditionally socialized youth. The study showed that, as revealed in the literature, gender, and culture were statistically significant to AIDS related knowledge, beliefs and practices. It found that youth rely on Western oriented sources for their sex education information versus traditionally based sources. It also found that although respondents were well aware of traditional Luo practices, they were also well informed about Western-based AIDS information. In addition, the research found that the majority of respondents were sexually active, but did not always practice safer sex, or use condoms. Based on the literature, research findings, and observations made by the researcher, a community based, family life education initiative is recommended. This initiative should attempt to bridge gaps between age groups and across the gender divide. This study has major implications for public policy, implementation and design of AIDS awareness and prevention endeavors and will enhance health and development literature.