Claire Keeton, Sunday Times
The incidence of multiple sexual partners highlighted once more in a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and SABC
released this week is one of the main behaviours fuelling the HIV epidemic.
More than half of the young participants who had been sexually active in the past year did not trust their partners. Yet more
than half of them did not always use a condom.
Infidelity was normal, agreed 13 men and women, aged 17 to 24, who met this week to discuss the findings of the survey.
Dr Garth Japhet, the executive director of health-promotion project Soul City, warned that concurrent partners sleeping
with more than one partner over weeks, months or years was the biggest driver of HIV in South Africa.
European youth are having as much unprotected sex as here, but it is the nature of the unprotected sex in South Africa [that
is a problem]. Here, people have more than one partner at the same time, and often there is a generational difference.
The problem of multiple sexual partners would be the major focus for Soul City which was identified in the survey as the
best-known HIV prevention programme over the next five years, he said.
The Wits University Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit, which conducted a large survey among 15-to-24- year olds in
2003, has been doing in-depth research with youth. Senior researcher Dr Catherine MacPhail said multiple and concurrent
partners was a huge issue in South Africa: In every discussion young people raise the issue of partners being untrustwo
At the group discussion this week, people explained why they had unsafe sex with a partner despite thinking he or she was
cheating. Their reasons ranged from thinking they were bullet-proof and desiring the rush of unsafe sex to wanting to keep
their partners and lacking the power in relationships with older or richer partners to insist on condom use.
Justin Dreyer, a 17-year-old from Kibler Park, Johannesburg, said: Young people have lots of rules they do not follow. Sex
with a condom is not the same and they want the rush.
Mbali Magagula, 23, from Auckland Park, Johannesburg, said: Many young people are into instant gratification. They will
accept danger for five minutes of pleasure.
Her friend quipped that it may not even involve pleasure. Casual partners were seen as more willing to take risks.
Those girls are always trying to impress the guy and will say anything goes, said Mpho Thapayo, 23, from Soweto.
The women said it was harder to practise safe sex with sugar daddies than with their peers.
Making it clear she would not have such a relationship, Molekwa said she knew of young women who found it tough to turn away
rich men who promised them the world. They throw promises at you, from a Mini Cooper to a jewel, a cellphone, designer jeans
or nice food.
Dr Nomonde Xundu, the Health Departments chief director for HIV/AIDS, said sex should be less about power for young men, and
that young women needed to feel valued for themselves rather than their relationships.
The survey showed that most young South Africans were knowledgeable about the key aspects of HIV prevention and treatment
but still 42% felt they were at great risk of becoming infected.
Most of the young people said they would like to talk more openly with their parents and other adults about
HIV/AIDS, and to
get even more information on how to avoid getting the virus.
Magagula said: As young people we would appreciate it if parents told us about the emotional bit and that sex is not always
what it is cut out to be.
Although these young people were optimistic overall, they seemed fatalistic about the chances of getting HIV.
Lindie Ngeleza, 24 from Soweto, said: We are all going to die and young people think you could as easily be knocked down by
a car as get HIV.
Still, they also had a sense that HIV happened to other people, not themselves, even though
HIV/AIDS had struck close to home
for many of them.
The survey found a family member of 15% of participants had died of AIDS, while 7% had a relative living with HIV.
Most of the participants were willing to test for HIV, with 72% of those who had not been tested saying they would take one
if it were offered to them.
Testing positive is referred to in townships as crashing on your Z3.
Although the youth were generally well informed, they still had misconceptions about
HIV/AIDS, including not knowing that
there is no vaccine against it yet, that drugs do not cure HIV/AIDS and that a pregnant woman can take drugs to reduce the
risk of her baby getting the virus.
More than half of the sexually active women in the survey had been pregnant and two-thirds of them said this resulted from
not using contraception.
About 60% of them said they did not want to be pregnant while nearly a third said they had wanted to have a baby.
More than half of those surveyed did not think an HIV-free generation was attainable.
The survey, designed and analysed by the US-based Kaiser Family Foundation and the SABC, and conducted by Development
Research Africa, included face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 3 926 15-24-year-old South
Africans. The survey had a margin of error of two percentage points
What the youth watch and listen to . . .
The Kaiser Family Foundation-SABC survey found:
* The most popular show on TV is Generations, watched by 81% of participants, and 24% of these viewers said they had learned a
lot about HIV/AIDS from this show
* Two-thirds of them said they had learned a lot about HIV/Aids from Soul City, and other shows with a direct focus on
and sexual health (Soul Buddyz 46%, Tsha Tsha 41%, and Zola 7 40%)
* More than 80% think that national HIV prevention campaigns are effective in teaching people about
HIV/AIDS. The best known is
Soul City (91%), followed by loveLife (86%) and the governments HIV prevention campaign, Khomanani (61%)
* Eighty percent favour more HIV/AIDS messages in the media, and these should be hopeful, culturally relevant and factual
* Sixty percent said messages about fear and death turn young people off
* More than half of the youth listen to radio every day and almost half watch TV everyday
* More than 40% talk on a cellphone every day and a third send text messages every day
* More than a third read books for studying every day, while only 10% read a newspaper every day
* The most popular TV stations are SABC1 (77%), e.tv (51%), SABC2 (34%) and SABC3 (22%)
* Generations is the most popular TV programme (49% watched regularly), followed by Soul City (10%), 7de Laan (10%) and the
* Ukhozi FM is the radio station listened to most often (16%), followed by Umhlobo Wenene FM (11%), Metro FM (9%) and Lesedi FM
* Six percent use the Internet every day or almost every day, and 9% have Internet access at home 15% have a computer at home
and 17% have never used the Internet
* Nearly 100% said TV and radio were generally doing a good job communicating about
* More than 90% said TV and radio had had a positive impact on their understanding of
HIV/AIDS and related sexual behaviour
* Half said they had talked with their partner about safer sex and 43% said they had decided to change their sexual behaviour
as a result of what they had learned about HIV/AIDS from the media
* Nearly a third of sexually active youth said they had tested for HIV as a result of what they had learned from a media