Sexual behaviour and practices among adolescent blood donors in Zimbabwe
Background The incidence of HIV is increasing among Zimbabwean adolescent blood donors, a group that contributes around 70% of total blood collections. This increase may pose public health challenges such as lack of adequate and safe blood. Previous research observed positive associations between history of sexually transmitted infections and HIV infection. However, the designs were mainly retrospective and cross sectional. This made it almost impossible to explore the complexity of sexual behaviour since data on sexual behaviour are not stored in the database for blood donors.
Aims and objectives We sought to explore sexual behaviour and practices among adolescent blood donors as well as the contextual factors shaping such behaviour.
Study design We carried out a qualitative study on 10 adolescent blood donors aged between 18 and 20 years, inclusive, and four (4) key informants, purposely selected from the professional fields comprising community nurses, high school teachers and HIV counsellors. Interviews were audio-taped and lasted 30 – 40 minutes.
Results Most adolescent blood donors reported they practise sexual abstinence. Nevertheless, they also reported on the acceptability of unprotected sex with sexual partners perceived to be HIV negative. Social status ascribed to blood donors, and mandatory HIV screening of donated blood, were protective against risky sexual behaviour. However, socio-economic and cultural factors may override this.
Conclusion Behavioural change models such as the Abstinence, Be faithful and consistent Condom use (ABC model) may not reverse the observed upward trend in HIV among this group. Addressing contextual factors may ensure a safe and consistent pool of adolescent blood donors in Zimbabwe.