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SAHARA-J: Journal of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS

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The association between social networks and self-rated risk of HIV infection among secondary school students in Moshi Municipality, Tanzania

EJ Lyimo, J Todd, LA Richey, B Njau

Abstract


This study describes the social networks of secondary school students in Moshi Municipality, and their association with self-rated risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. A cross-sectional analytical study was conducted among 300 students aged 15–24 years in 5 secondary schools in Moshi, Tanzania. Bonding networks were defined as social groupings of students participating in activities within the school, while bridging networks were groups that included students participating in social groupings from outside of the school environs. A structured questionnaire was used to ask about participation in bonding and bridging social networks and self-rated HIV risk behavior. More participants participated in bonding networks (72%) than in bridging networks (29%). Participation in bridging networks was greater among females (25%) than males (12%, p , .005). Of 300 participants, 88 (29%) were sexually experienced, and of these 62 (70%) considered themselves to be at low risk of HIV infection. Factors associated with self-rated risk of HIV included: type of school (p , .003), family structure (p , .008), being sexually experienced (p , .004), having had sex in the past three months (p , .009), having an extra sexual  partner (p , .054) and non-condom use in last sexual intercourse (p , .001), but not the presence or type of social capital. The study found no association between bonding and bridging social networks on self-rated risk of HIV among study participants. However, sexually experienced participants rated themselves at low risk of HIV infection despite practicing unsafe sex. Efforts to raise adolescents’ self-awareness of risk of HIV infection through life skills education and HIV/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome risk reduction strategies may be beneficial to students in this at-risk group.

Keywords: bonding, bridging, social network, risk behaviors, HIV, school students




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