Sexual risk reduction needs of adolescents living with HIV in a clinical care setting
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As anti-retroviral therapy becomes increasingly available, young people living with HIV need tailored support to adopt healthy sexual behaviors. There has been a gap in the availability of culturally appropriate techniques for secondary prevention and sexual risk reduction in this target group. This formative study assessed sexual and reproductive health needs and problems, as well as determinants of sexual risk-taking among young people living with HIV aged 11-21 years attending the Paediatric Infectious Disease Clinic in Kampala, Uganda. Theoretical guidance was provided by the Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills Model. Socio-demographic and selected psychosexual data were assessed using a brief anonymous questionnaire. A total of 75 young people living with HIV participated in eight focus group discussions. In addition, one focus group was conducted with adult key informants (service providers). About a quarter of the young participants reported prior or current sexual experience. The study revealed knowledge gaps relating to reproductive health, HIV transmission, and contraceptive methods. Motivations for protection included hope for the future, good counseling, and fear of the consequences of sexual activity such as unwanted pregnancies. Barriers to adopting preventive behaviors included peer pressure, poverty, HIV-related stigma, ignorance of their partners, alcohol use, and a desire to have children for the older ones. Young sero-positive people in this setting lacked specific behavioral skills, such as disclosure of HIV status to their sexual partners, this being closely linked to fear of rejection and stigma. HIV positive youths need support in developing the appropriate behavioral skills to adopt healthy sexual behaviors. Interventions in this field need to be developmentally appropriate and tailored to young people’s specific needs. Structural interventions should at the same time address and reduce HIV-related stigma and socio-economic needs of young people living with HIV.