SOUTH AFRICA: Less sex, more violence for teens

Photo: Anthony Kaminju/IRIN
Less sex
JOHANNESBURG, 23 April 2010 (PlusNews) - Schoolchildren in South Africa are having less sex, and those that are, are doing it more safely, the second National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey by the Medical Research Council (MRC) has found.

Over 10,000 students in their last three years of high school participated in the survey, which showed "significant reductions" in risky sexual behaviour.

The first survey, in 2002, found that 41 percent had "ever had sex", but this dropped from to 38 percent in the current survey; the number with two or more sexual partners in their lifetime showed a significant decrease from 45 to 41 percent.

Fewer pupils - 52 percent compared to 70 percent - had had one or more sexual partners in the past three months; the rate of new sexually transmitted infections went down from seven to four percent, and condom use increased slightly.

However, at least two-thirds of sexually active students did not use condoms consistently, and one-fifth reported being pregnant or making someone pregnant.

MRC researcher Dr Shegs James attributed the move towards safer sex to the "huge emphasis" on this in South Africa's HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, but warned against complacency. "The numbers are still quite high - a lot more effort is needed to bring down these figures," she told IRIN/PlusNews.

The Youth Risk Behaviour Survey called for sexual education programmes to be tailored to individual group needs, and said a "concerted effort needs to be made to increase correct and consistent condom use, as well as contraception use".

Substance abuse was another major concern: one-third of students reported having used alcohol in the 30 days before the survey, and most of the young people who used alcohol also engaged in risky behaviours, like binge drinking and driving while under the influence of a mind-altering substance.

Before having sex, 16.2 percent used alcohol and 14 percent used drugs. "Using alcohol or drugs reduces your inhibitions and it becomes much easier for learners to engage in unsafe sexual activity," James noted.

The survey also found "an unacceptable prevalence of violence" in schools - over 15 percent of pupils had carried weapons and 19 percent belonged to gangs, while 1 in 4 had considered or tried to commit suicide. "This is alarming and disappointing, and it's [the survey] has alerted us to these problems. It's time for action," James commented.

The government should help schools "re-orientate themselves as places of safety for learners who may be adversely challenged outside the system," the survey recommended. "Learners, in their increased affiliation to gang membership, are demonstrating a need to feel aligned to a system that they perceive as protective."


Theme (s): Children, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Prevention - PlusNews,

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

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