Emotion as Opportunity: Reflections on Multiple Concurrent Partnerships among Young Men in South Africa

  • S Swartz
  • R Tyler
  • A Versfeld


Partner reduction has been shown to be one of the most important aspects of any programme that seeks to contain the spread of HIV. In South Africa, however, multiple concurrent sexual partnerships are a common feature of township life for young people, especially young men. Following on from XXXXX’s (2009) study on young fathers this small, qualitative study comprised a series of in-depth and frank discussions about multiple concurrent sexual partnerships with a group of four young men living in Langa, Cape Town, who had been involved in the previous study of young fathers as either key informants or community recruiters. Three discussion themes emerged: the social dynamics around multiple concurrent partnerships; the reasons for their high prevalence and persistence in the face of HIV; and the emotional complexities and costs of having multiple concurrent partnerships. These conversations highlighted the fact that the literature has tended to focus on the social, historical and practical reasons for multiple concurrent partners, rather than exploring the gendered emotional aspects thereof. We suggest that a greater focus on the latter, especially among young men, will offer possibilities for effective partnership reduction programmes.

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eISSN: 1596-9231