To Change or Not to Change: Obstacles and Resistance to Sexual Behavioural Change among the Youth in Ghana in the Era of AIDS
AbstractGhana has one of the highest levels of reported cases of HIV/AIDS in the West African sub-region. The majority of infected persons are in their twenties. Young people are particularly vulnerable to STD/HIV infection for a number of reasons. They are confronted with complex and interlinked bio-social, economic and political structures and community factors. Although they are aware of STD/HIV, they do not practice safe sex or do not use condom consistently. They are more reluctant than older ones to seek treatment for STDs partly because of the attitudes of the older people, the health care providers and the general society to adolescent sexuality or may not be able to afford services. The paper is based on data collected from in- and out-of-school youth at the national and regional levels on their perceptions and reactions to the epidemic. Field work was done in five out of ten regions in Ghana using both qualitative and quantitative instruments. The issues covered included their current attitudes and behaviours related to HIV/AIDS, their reaction to the need for change and their perceived constraints/barriers to behaviour change. HIV/AIDS education messages have not taken the specific concerns of the young people into consideration. Most out-of-school youth are cut off from the mainstream educational and health care facilities. Young people are receptive to AIDS-related messages when they are made part of the planning and implementation of programmes. Attempts at initiating behavioural change in the youth must take into consideration all the complex factors. The source of, and the agents for change, must be seen to be credible and the effort must be reinforced and sustained. The problem may be of barriers than just resistance/refusal of change on the part of the youth.
(Institute of African Studies Research Review: 2003 19(1): 27-46)