A snapshot: South African university students' attitudes, perceptions and knowledge of HIV/AIDS

  • LR Raijmakers Research Directorate, Vaal University of Technology, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
  • JD Pretorius Vaal University of Technology


This article presents the findings of a survey conducted in August 2004 of students' attitudes, perceptions and knowledge about sexually transmitted infections, HIV/ AIDS and sexual practices at an Institution of Higher Education. The study was set against the backdrop of the 2004 South African national survey, conducted by the Reproductive Health Research Unit, University of Witwatersrand, which identified the worrying trend that although South African youths acknowledged HIV/AIDS as the biggest problem facing them and 45 per cent personally knew someone who had died of AIDS, the vast majority of those who engaged in risk behaviour did not think they were personally at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. A representative sample of students in the age range 17 to 25 completed a confidential, anonymous questionnaire. In spite of high-risk sexual behaviour, that is, multiple partners and inconsistent condom use, most students believed that they were not at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. A review of students' sexual behaviour is followed by recommendations. The findings of this survey are relevant for management of higher education institutions. Information on students' attitudes and perceptions will enable Higher Education management to review their present strategies and policies on HIV/AIDS. This will facilitate the implementation of the most effective methods of responding to an epidemic that is increasingly more visible on campuses in South Africa (Higher Education HIV/AIDS Programme 2004).

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol. 20 (2) 2006: 299-317

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eISSN: 1011-3487