by Dave Savides, Zululand Observer, 11 Feb 2011
Despite millions of rands having been poured into promoting the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, young people do not seem to be taking the message seriously. The results of studies conducted by Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies point to the need to intensify existing HIV prevention strategies to increase their effectiveness. 'Prevention messages need to emphasize the importance of condom us in all types of relationships where the HIV status is unknown,' said Natsayi Chimbindi, an epidemiologist at Africa Centre.
'The HIV epidemic remains a major global public health challenge, with a total of 33.4 million people living with HIV worldwide. South Africa has the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world (5.7 million), with KZN bearing the brunt of the prevalence,' said Chimbindi.
Studies at the Centre showed that in 2005 the overall HIV prevalence among the general population was 27% among 15-50 year old females and 14% in 15-54 year old males, with high rates among young adults. Despite the high HIV prevalence rates, condom use is still relatively low among young people.
Chimbindi said several factors have been found to affect young people's correct and consistent condom use. 'In this largely rural setting, about half (52%) of sexually active young people aged between 15 and 24 years reported ever using condoms with the most recent partner in the last year. 'Fewer females than males reported using condoms with the most recent partner.
'Furthermore, females were unlikely to use condoms with a regular partner (current regular partner, current wife, or current husband) than a casual partner. Young people who had a partner older by at least a year had a low chance of using condoms (for both males and females) compared to those whose partners were the same age.'
Where youth resided also played a part in condom usage. 'Young people whose partners lived outside the immediate residential area (isigodi: an area for which a single Induna is responsible) were more likely to use condoms than those living with their partners in the same household,' said Chimbindi. Ýoung people who belonged to a household with a high socio-economic status were more likely to have ever used a condom with their most recent partner than those from a low socio-economic status household.'