Original Paper

AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 836-844

First online:

Estimating Alcohol Content of Traditional Brew in Western Kenya Using Culturally Relevant Methods: The Case for Cost Over Volume

  • Rebecca K. PapasAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine Email author 
  • , John E. SidleAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Moi University Faculty of Health Sciences
  • , Emmanuel S. WamalwaAffiliated with
  • , Thomas O. OkumuAffiliated withKenya Bureau of Standards
  • , Kendall L. BryantAffiliated withNational Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  • , Joseph L. GouletAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine
  • , Stephen A. MaistoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Syracuse University
  • , R. Scott BraithwaiteAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine
  • , Amy C. JusticeAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine

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Traditional homemade brew is believed to represent the highest proportion of alcohol use in sub-Saharan Africa. In Eldoret, Kenya, two types of brew are common: chang’aa, spirits, and busaa, maize beer. Local residents refer to the amount of brew consumed by the amount of money spent, suggesting a culturally relevant estimation method. The purposes of this study were to analyze ethanol content of chang’aa and busaa; and to compare two methods of alcohol estimation: use by cost, and use by volume, the latter the current international standard. Laboratory results showed mean ethanol content was 34% (SD = 14%) for chang’aa and 4% (SD = 1%) for busaa. Standard drink unit equivalents for chang’aa and busaa, respectively, were 2 and 1.3 (US) and 3.5 and 2.3 (Great Britain). Using a computational approach, both methods demonstrated comparable results. We conclude that cost estimation of alcohol content is more culturally relevant and does not differ in accuracy from the international standard.


Alcohol Traditional brew HIV Kenya Cognitive behavioral treatment