Risk factors for HIV-AIDS among youth in Cape Town, South Africa
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South Africa is in the midst of a devastating HIV-AIDS epidemic and most new HIV infections occur among young adults and adolescents. The current study examined risk behaviors and HIV risk factors among young people living in a Black South African township. Using community-based outreach methods of street intercept and facility-based surveying, 113 men and 115 women age 25 and younger responded to an anonymous survey. Results showed that men (68%) and women (56%) reported HIV-related high risk sexual behaviors. Although knowledge about HIV transmission was generally high, there was evidence that misconceptions about AIDS persist, particularly myths related to HIV transmission. For young men, HIV risk factors were associated with fewer years of education, lower levels of AIDS-related knowledge, condom attitudes, and Dagga (marijuana) use. Among young women, HIV risk factors were associated with beliefs that condoms get in the way of sex and rates of unprotected vaginal intercourse. Despite adequate general AIDS knowledge and risk sensitization, South African youth demonstrated high rates of sexual practices that place them at risk for HIV infection. There is an urgent need for behavioral interventions targeted to young South Africans living in the most economically disadvantaged areas.
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