The primary purpose of the research conducted from January to December 2006 was to investigate the ways in which the AIDS epidemic was playing out in a Zomba District sample of households that had been studied since 1986. The single most important characteristic of this research is that we have information on the same households for twenty years, a span of time for a longitudinal study that we believe to be unique in current research in Malawi. After the initial research in 1986, additional full twelve-month rounds of research were conducted with the same sample in 1990 and 1997, with shorter visits to part of the sample between 1993–96. The data and analysis provided in this report concentrate on the households who were in both the original 1986 study and in the 2006 study.
The original sample of households was selected in 1986 through a combination of maps, village lists, and visits to villages to select households. The households were purposively sampled to include roughly equal proportions of tobacco growers, “large” maize growers, and “small” to “medium” maize growers. Since everyone grows maize, these last two categories translated into those with relatively large and
those with relatively small land-holdings in the villages. The sample families follow matrilineal and matrilocal patterns of organization: descent and inheritance are traced through the mother’s line, and husbands move to their wives’ village on marriage. Land is inherited by female heirs and sons are expected to use their wives’ land.