Social construction of sexual risk for HIV and behavioural change among youth in Masaka and Kampala Districts
Mbaaga, Frank Kakinda
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HIV/AIDS, a disease without cure or vaccine, is a devastating pandemic. About 40 million people are infected worldwide, 4.1 million are infected annually, and about 800,000 died from AIDS related illnesses each year. In developing countries, the disease is transmitted mainly heterosexually. Infection can be reduced through abstinence, faithfulness and use of condoms. People must be knowledgeable about the disease and perceive that they are at risk of infection. This study investigated social construction of sexual risk for HIV and behavioural change among youth in Masaka and Kampala districts. Two hundred and forty male and female youths were randomly selected in Masaka and Kampala districts and structured interviews were administered to them. Forty-two key informants interviews and 32 focus group discussions were conducted in both districts. Data from structured and key informant interviews were analysed using SPSS and NUDIST programmes respectively. Focus group discussion transcribed, entered in the computer and information of the same theme and code was assembled together. Socio-economic background, knowledge HIV/AIDS and attitude towards HIV testing determined to a limit extend perceived risk in general, perceived risk from condom use, abstinence, and faithfulness. The majority of the youth perceived low risk from first sex and from multiple partners. All sexual spaces and alcohol/drug abuse were perceived to increase the risk of infection. Some social activities, peer groups gender relations were perceived to reduce the risk whereas others increased it. Older men and women have sex with young partners because the latter satisfy them sexually, they are blinded by money and gifts they offer them; and if older men and women are infected they want to infect the youth. Some characteristics of an ideal man and of woman were perceived to reduce the risk of infection whereas others increased it. The majority of youth abstained from sex though the duration was short. Three-quarters were faithful to their partners. Belief in the effectiveness of condoms varied from 30% to 100%. Practice of abstinence, faithfulness and condom use was facilitated and hindered by certain factors. AIDS Risk Reduction Theory is relatively adequate in explaining the construction of sexual risk because it emphasise HIV/AIDS knowledge, perceived susceptibility to the disease and response efficacy and self-efficacy of abstinence, faithfulness and condom use. Activity System Theory is inadequate because it emphasises only intention, implementation, and factors which facilitate and hinder implementation. Diffusion of Innovation Theory is relatively adequate because it emphasises all the five stages of communication, knowledge, persuasion, adaptation and implementation. Its weakness is that sexual behaviour is mainly a private behaviour and cannot be easily and readily observed and emulated. This research studied perceived risk of youth in sexual activities or activities which lead to sex ssbehaviour which youth adopt to reduce the risk. The findings have ample implications and applications for policy-makers, practitioners, researchers and scholars engaged in theoretical endeavours.