Objective: The main aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of food insecurity and its associated socio-demographic characteristics in Oria village North-East Tanzania. It also aimed at exploring the relationship between food insecurity and nutritional and health outcomes in this population. Methods: A cross sectional analysis using data from the 1997 Health Systems Research and Health Promotion in Relation to Reproductive Health survey in Tanzania was conducted. A total of 898 individuals aged between 15-36 years of age were included. The participation rate for the survey was 79%. A questionnaire was administered including a question adopted from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) to assess the food security status of the household. Information on socio-demographic characteristics, general health status, infant feeding practice and sexual behaviour was collected. HIV testing was done using saliva samples. Analysis was adjusted for age, education and occupation.Results: Data analysis was done for 891/898 (99.2%) of the eligible respondents which included 402 men and 488 women. The overall prevalence of food insecurity was 25.2%. It was positively related to age, presence of children and having a health complaint among women and negatively associated with level of education among women and employment status among men. Food insecurity was not related to infant feeding practices.Food insecurity increased the odds of HIV infection among women by two though it did not remain statistically significant after adjusting for age, education and occupation. There was also an insignificant increase in the chance of food insecure households adopting risky sexual behaviour in both sexes. Conclusion: Food insecurity is prevalent in Oria and should be considered of public health importance. The apparent relationship between food insecurity and age, education, presence of children and having health complaints among women as well as employment status among men shows that some households are more vulnerable to food insecurity than others. Food insecurity is also likely to be associated with an increased chance of engaging in risky sexual behaviours associated with increased risk of disease in this case HIV/AIDS.
KEY WORDS: Food insecurity, socio-demographic characteristics, infant feeding practices, risky sexual behaviours, HIV/AIDS, Tanzania.