Perceptions of HIV and sexual risk behaviours among community members in the Northern Cape province of South Africa
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In South Africa, the key behavioural risk factors increasing vulnerability to HIV infection are age disparate sexual relationships, teenage pregnancy, early sexual debut, multiple sexual partners, and alcohol and substance abuse. This study aims to explore the perceptions of risk and sexual risk behaviours that increase vulnerability to HIV amongst community members in the Northern Cape Province. Seven focus groups were conducted with 67 participants (youth 14 to 17 years old and adults 24 years and older) from various communities in the Northern Cape Province. The focus group discussions encompassed issues related to the perception and prevalence of risk taking behaviours. All transcripts were transcribed verbatim and translated, and data were analysed thematically. Participants reported that community members perceived their HIV risk as low-risk even though they engage in risky sexual behaviours that increase their vulnerability to contracting
HIV. Furthermore, participants stated that age-disparate sexual relationships are on the increase, exposing young girls to the risk of HIV infection due to poor economic conditions prevalent in communities they live in across the Northern Cape Province. Knowing (through epidemiology) and understanding the local epidemic (through qualitative research) are critical to developing and implementing the appropriate local programmes for communities where different drivers of the HIV epidemic exists in the Northern Cape Province.