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Sexual-risk behaviour among sexually active first-year students at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa

Melissa D Abels
Renette J Blignaut


In South Africa, new HIV infections are concentrated among persons aged 15–24 years. The university population falls within this age group and are prone to higher-risk behaviours that place them at risk of acquiring HIV. In a study to assess this risk among sexually active students, we classified higher-risk sexual behaviours as not using condoms at every instance of sex, having had more than one sexual partner during the preceding 12 months, a relatively young age at first sexual intercourse (7–16 years), and experience of sexual violence and/or transactional sex. In total, 796 first-year students at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa, completed a self-administered questionnaire in 2006. The sample included 263 sexually active, unmarried students, aged 16 to 24 years. The responses showed that 62% did not use a condom for every instance of sex, 39% had two or more sexual partners in the previous 12 months, 53% had initiated sexual intercourse at a younger age (7–16 years), and 2% had ever exchanged money or gifts for sexual intercourse. Eight percent of the respondents said they did not give their consent or permission at initiation of first sexual intercourse. One in every 10 respondents claimed that they had ever been forced to have sexual intercourse, and 4% said that they had  ever forced someone to have sexual intercourse. The sexually active students who reported an earlier age of initiation of sexual intercourse and having only one sexual partner during the last year were more likely to not use a condom every time, whereas the sexually active students that had experienced initiation of sexual intercourse while in an older age group (17–24 years) and who had two or more sexual partners in the last year were more likely to use a condom every time. Sexually active university students are in need of particular HIV-prevention interventions given their tendencies for poor condom usage and having multiple sexual partners.

Keywords: condoms, HIV/AIDS, risk assessment, risk factors, self-reporting, sexual debut, youths

African Journal of AIDS Research 2011, 10(3): 255–261

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eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445