Perceived vulnerability to aids among rural Black South African children: a pilot study

  • Karl Peltzer Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS, Human Sciences Research Council, Private Bag X9182, Cape Town 8000, South Africa and University of Durban-Westville, Private Bag X54001, Durban 4000, South Africa
  • Supa Promtussananon Health Behaviour Research Unit, University of Venda for Science and Technology, Private Bag X5050, Thohoyandou 0950, South Africa


The aim of the study was to examine Black primary school age children's perception of vulnerability to AIDS in rural South Africa. Data were collected from 100 children chosen by two-stage cluster sampling in a rural community in the central region of the Northern Province, in the age range between 6–11 years: ages 6–8, 45 (23 boys and 22 girls) and ages 9–11, 55 (24 boys and 31 girls). Results indicate that a minority of children (30%) overall felt that anyone can get AIDS and that they themselves (17%) can get AIDS. When asked to identify who gets AIDS, most children believed that people with specific group membership such as sick people, homosexuals or strangers get AIDS, and especially older children associated behaviours or actions such as multiple partners or unsafe sex with getting AIDS. When the children were asked why they could get AIDS most, especially older, children excluded themselves as vulnerable to contracting AIDS due to avoiding risky behaviour and group membership. However, some, especially younger, children included themselves as vulnerable to contracting AIDS. Fear of possibly having AIDS was equally prevalent across the different age groups but it was more prevalent in girls than boys, especially in the older age group, yet few children in the younger age group thought they had AIDS. Almost a third (30%) worried about getting AIDS and even more (40%) thought they will get AIDS. There were important age- and gender-related differences regarding vulnerability and fears about AIDS, which have relevant implications for AIDS education addressing developmentally appropriate concerns.

Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health 2003, 15(1): 65-72

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1728-0591
print ISSN: 1728-0583