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Potential health risk factors amongst students at a higher education institution in the Western Cape with regard to sexuality and HIV/AIDS
Tabata, Nomzamo Peggy
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Health risks are continuing to be a challenge worldwide. Globally, young people aged 15-24 are amongst the most vulnerable groups. It was revealed that between 2007 and 2010, the rate of HIV infection increased in this age group. In sub-Saharan Africa, three out of four new HIV infections are amongst girls aged 15 to 19 years of age. Young women aged 15 to 24 are twice more likely to live with HIV than men in 2019. South Africa is the country with the largest human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infected population in the world, with an estimated 7 million people living with HIV and 380 000 new HIV infections in 2015. University students are a very important group of young people because they are being prepared for the world of work and to assume leadership roles. However, they are the group most exposed to a range of health risks, particularly regarding sexuality and HIV/AIDS. The aim of this study was to explore potential health risk factors amongst students at a Higher Education Institution (HEI) in the Western Cape with regard to sexuality and HIV/AIDS. The objectives of the study were to explore the factors that may increase health risk behaviours amongst students at an HEI and to discover and describe the knowledge university students have regarding potential health risks related to sexuality and HIV/AIDS. A qualitative research design was employed. Focus group interviews were done to collect data and a thematic content analysis was employed to analyse the data. Results revealed that the university students engaged in high-risk sexual behaviours, such as transactional sex, casual sex, multiple partner sexual relationships and unprotected sex. Such behaviours lead to a high-risk of contracting STIs and HIV/AIDS. Among the factors that were found to be contributing to these risky behaviours, was the new-found freedom of being away from the supervision of parents. Peer pressure at HEIs, as well as abuse of alcohol and drugs, also contribute to risky behaviours. Recommendations were that there should be organised and measured approaches to expose both lecturers and the students to HIV/AIDS education through an integrated curriculum design. There should be teamwork amongst lecturers, support staff and students to create powerful discussions and an exchange of ideas to clarify issues regarding HIV/AIDS, sexuality and other related topics to reduce high-risk behaviours and promote solid constructive attitudes amongst the university community.