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AIDS, caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), is one of the major hindrances to development in sub Saharan Africa. 18% of the South African population is infected with HIV. In the literature, little attention has been given to the socio-economic context in which people live to explain observed prevalence levels. This study uses an economic model of risky sexual behaviour to investigate the correlation between different socio-economic attributes and HIV prevalence in South Africa. The empirical results show that HIV prevalence is positively correlated with level of education, marriage and the proportion of female headed households, and negatively correlated with average age, proportion of young people, the proportion of women and fertility rates. The estimated variables accounted for 88% of the relationship to the observed levels of HIV prevalence.