Sexual and reproductive health risk behaviours among South African university students: results from a representative campus-wide survey
Among South African university students, HIV prevalence is lower than in age-peers, but at 3.8% it is not negligible. We examined prevalence of factors potentially associated with HIV risk, focusing on partnership characteristics and consistent condom use. We hypothesised that contraceptive-related factors, for example, desire to prevent pregnancy and not using hormonal contraceptives, would be positively associated with consistent condom use. Data were drawn from a representative interviewer-administered survey of 2nd to 4th year students conducted during registration at a university campus in KwaZulu-Natal. Of 576 students, 218 (83 women, 135 men) reported vaginal intercourse in the past 2 months. Of these, 7% of women and 43% of men reported past-year concurrent partnerships, and 24% knew/ suspected partner non-monogamy. Although reported condom use at last intercourse was 90%, 2-month consistent use was 53% (women) and 73% (men). Reported hormonal contraception use was low (women: 36.8%; men: 16.7%), and 68% used condoms for dual protection. In gender-stratified multivariable analyses, consistent condom use was higher for men who reported their partner did not use (vs. used) hormonal contraception (aOR = 5.84; 95%CI = 2.71, 12.57; p < 0.001) and who reported using condoms for dual protection (vs. single protection) (aOR = 2.46; 95%CI = 1.43, 4.25; p = 0.001). No contraception-related factors were associated with consistent condom use among women. Sexual partnership characteristics potentially place sexually active university students at high HIV risk and should be investigated further. Among men, but not women, contraceptive concerns were associated with consistent condom use. Promoting condoms for dual protection may resonate with students and should be continued.
Keywords: concurrent partners, condom use, dual protection, sexual partnerships, sexual risk behaviours, South Africa, young adults