Sexual violence: SA youth at risk

Candace Freeman

5 November 2004

Ignorance and misconceptions about sexual violence among young South Africans puts them at high risk of HIV infection, a study has found.

The study, into the links between sexual violence and HIV/Aids in South Africa, was released last week.

Community Information, Empowerment and Transparency (CIET) carried out the survey, involving over 269 905 learners aged 10 to 19 years in 1 418 schools across the country, at the end of 2002.

CIET is an NGO comprising an international group of epidemiologists and social scientists who bring scientific research methods to local government and community levels.

The study found that learners who had been forced to have sex were more inclined to believe they were HIV-positive and more likely to say that they would intentionally spread HIV.

Sixty percent of both boys and girls surveyed thought it was not violence to force sex upon someone one knew, while around 11% of boys and 4% of girls admitted to forcing someone else to have sex with them.

Only 60% of learners surveyed said they would be willing to be tested for HIV, with half of all learners not knowing or believing condoms were effective in preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases or HIV.

The study further showed that 12.7% still believed the myth that sex with a virgin would cure Aids, while 34% of learners said they never talked to anyone about sex.

CIET Director Neil Andersson said young people probably felt cornered by all this violence, and responded by seeming to take sexual abuse for granted, by treating aggression almost as something they expected.

"When they should be learning how to say 'No' and how to negotiate their way out of threatening situations, the attitudes of many young people seems to increase their risks", said Andersson.

It was not all bad news, however, as the study also highlighted the classroom as a source of HIV risk education.

The results of the study have already been used to develop life skills education materials, called "Beyond Victims and Villains", adapted to meet the standards of the Revised National Curriculum Statement and available for free to departments of education.

"It is important that those responsible for educating youth about HIV take into account that learners may be changed by their personal experiences and environment", Andersson said.

Source: BuaNews

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