Exploring Risk and Protective Mechanisms Associated With hiv Infection Among Adolescents in South Africa
1Human Sciences Research Council
2University of the Western Cape
3University of Cape Town
5University of Chicago, Illinois
Background: The main objective of this study was to explore South African adolescents’ perceived risk and protective mechanisms for HIV infection in their communities. Methods: The study used a qualitative design with Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) for data collection. FGDs were conducted among 12 to 17 year old participants receiving mental health services at either one of two clinics in Cape Town. Thematic content analysis was used to generate the core themes that emerged. Findings: Themes associated with risky behaviours for HIV infection were: Alcohol and illicit drug use; Non-condom use; Prostitution and risky sexual activity with multiple partners; and Non-disclosure of HIV status. Themes associated with protective mechanisms were: HIV knowledge and appropriate risk- reducing behaviour; and Proactive parental attitudes and behaviour. Discussion: The findings highlight the importance of ascertaining the perceptions of adolescents regarding how knowledge, attitudes and practices of the members of their social network influence young individuals’ vulnerability to HIV infection. The findings also help to shape future targeted adolescent programs for HIV prevention.