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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
SOUTH AFRICA: Many Young Adults Are Playing AIDS Roulette,
Tamar Kahn
September 12, 2007
Business Day (Johannesburg) (09.05.07) - Wednesday, September

A new study from the Center for AIDS Development, Research & Evaluation (CADRE) finds that many South Africans ages 20-30 continue to have concurrent sexual partners despite the high risk for HIV.

CADRE Executive Director Warren Parker said the study's findings have important implications for the design of HIV prevention campaigns, which have generally targeted young people ages 15-20 and focused on "Abstain, Be faithful, and use Condoms." "It's important to evolve away from the ABC message because it's far too simplistic," said Parker.

The study was based on a household survey of more than 7,002 people, with focus group-based follow-up interviews with 75 young adults. Concurrent sexual partnerships were widely accepted by both men and women, it found. Many respondents separated sex and love, reporting that they had sex with love with a "main partner" and sex without love with "other" partners.

Instead of seeing faithfulness as being monogamous in a relationship, many respondents understood it as shielding their main partners from knowing they had other partners. "I am faithful to [my girlfriend] because even when I have other girlfriends I do not walk around with them for her to see," said one young man. "Being faithful is protecting the one you love from hurt," a woman concurred.

According to the Human Sciences Research Council, about 33 percent of women and 12.1 percent of men ages 25-30 in South Africa are HIV-infected. Half the study group said they knew someone who was HIV-positive or had died from an AIDS-related illness. One-fifth of the women and 14 percent of the men said they had helped care for someone with AIDS. Yet their awareness was at odds with their acknowledged sexual behavior, with few reporting consistent condom use.