African Journal of AIDS Research

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Ecological correlates of multiple sexual partnerships among adolescents and young adults in urban Cape Town: a cumulative risk factor approach

Evans Muchiri, Clifford Odimegwu, Pamela Banda, Lorreta Ntoimo, Sunday Adedini


Studies in South Africa have reported unsafe levels of risky sexual behvaiours among adolescents and young adults, with the country reporting the highest burden of HIV/AIDS globally, as well as a high rate of teenage pregnancy. While determinants of risky sexual behaviours have been investigated for factors occurring at the individual and household levels, not fully explored in the literature is the effect of community level factors. Furthermore, it is unclear whether risk factors occurring within the ecology of adolescents and young adults act cumulatively to influence their sexual practices. This article aims to address this knowledge gap using a case study of the Cape Area Panel Study of adolescents and young adults in urban Cape Town, South Africa. The ecological framework was adopted to guide the selection of risk factors at the individual, household, and community levels. Multivariate linear discriminant function analyses were used to select significant risk factors for multiple sexual partnerships and used to produce risk indices for the respondents. The cumulative risk approach was applied to test whether significant risk factors acted cumulatively. Findings point to the importance of ecological factors in influencing outcomes of multiple sexual partnerships among respondents and further demonstrate that ecological risk factors may act cumulatively. These findings are important for South Africa that is grappling with teenage pregnancy and disproportionate HIV epidemic among the youth.

Keywords: Risky sexual behaviours, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, ecological framework
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