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Youth misconceptions about HIV and sexual violence
Thursday 10 February 2005
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SOUTH AFRICA: Youth misconceptions about HIV and sexual violence

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Report highlights failure in communicating risks of HIV to youth

JOHANNESBURG, 25 November (PLUSNEWS) - A recent study has found that South African school pupils are prone to misconceptions about sexual violence and HIV/AIDS.

The report, a nationwide cross-sectional study of views on sexual violence and the risk of HIV infection among school pupils, found that "participants who claimed to have been forced to have sex were [also] more likely to say they had forced someone else to have sex".

According to the survey, which canvassed 269,705 pupils, respondents aged 10-14 years "were more likely than older ones (15-19 years) to believe that ... if you know someone, forcing sex is not sexual violence, and that girls have no right to refuse sex with their boyfriend". The study found that rural male respondents were also more likely to express these views.

About 65 percent of males and 71 percent of females who admitted to forcing someone else to have sex had themselves been forced to have sex, the study found.

They were also "more likely to have views that would put them at high risk of HIV infection - for example, sex with a virgin can cure [HIV/AIDS], [and] condoms do not protect against HIV".

The belief that sex with a virgin could cure HIV/AIDS was reported by 12.7 percent of the participants, and this belief was "more common in youth from rural areas", said the researchers.

Overall, 33 percent of participants thought they were HIV positive, irrespective of whether they had ever had sex.

The authors of the report noted that several studies had already highlighted the "high incidence of sexual abuse among South African youth", and from the results of this survey it was clear that "a history of sexual abuse distorts perceptions about sexual violence and the risk of HIV infection".

"South African youth of both sexes have a high prevalence of misconceptions about sexual violence and about the risk of HIV infection. [But] males were more likely than females to have misconceptions about sexual violence," the report observed.

Sexual violence was probably exacerbated by South Africa's violent past, the researchers commented, and the endemic violence had become highly sexualised and "aimed at the most vulnerable members of society".

Given the misconceptions regarding sexual violence and HIV/AIDS, the researchers noted that "responses to communication about behaviour change may be less positive than expected".

It was therefore "important that those responsible for educating youth about HIV infection take into account that youth may be changed by their personal experiences and environment", which was likely to "condition their reaction to educational messages".

NGOs have embarked on various HIV/AIDS education and awareness campaigns in recent years, but the researchers found "no convincing association between attitudes and education on risk of HIV infection from a national NGO education programme, youth group, or church".

"The classroom setting seemed to be the only source of education consistently associated with fewer misconceptions," the report said, noting that "one in three youth believed they could be HIV positive [but] one in four of these had not even had sex, an indicator of ignorance of the mechanism of HIV infection".

The study concluded that this "failure of education comes at an important cost".


Recent SOUTH AFRICA Reports
Anti-AIDS drug tender yet to be awarded,  8/Feb/05
Generic AIDS drug maker gets US approval,  25/Jan/05
Closing the treatment gap,  18/Jan/05
Volunteer caregivers being exploited, says study,  14/Jan/05
Mandela's AIDS courage praised,  7/Jan/05
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
Sida Info Services
Le Fonds mondial de lutte contre le SIDA, la tuberculose et le paludisme
Le Réseau Afrique 2000

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