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American Public Health Association
133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition
December 10-14, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
APHA 2005
3121.0: Monday, December 12, 2005 - 11:35 AM

Abstract #117982

Social instability and violence in relation to the risk-taking behaviors of young adolescents in rural KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa

Aliza Monroe-Wise, Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2813 Guilford Ave, Baltimore, MD 21218, 410-299-1445, amonroew@jhsph.edu and Abigail Harrison, PhD, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, and Population Studies and Training Center, Brown University, Box 1836, Providence, RI 02912.

South Africa experiences one of the world's most severe HIV epidemics. In KwaZulu/Natal province, HIV prevalence is 14.1% among people aged 15-24. Young South Africans face high levels of structural violence, including endemic poverty, crime, and social instability. These conditions may influence later sexual risk and associated outcomes, such as HIV infection. Adolescence is a critical period during which risk-taking behaviors develop and critical opportunities for prevention exist. Few studies have investigated the relationship between social context and risk-taking among a young adolescent population. Using both qualitative and quantitative data, this study describes the social and risk-taking experiences of adolescents aged 11-14 in a rural area of KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa. Participants from a higher primary school participated in focus group discussions and in-depth interviews. A self-administered survey was then conducted throughout the school. Quantitative results showed a high prevalence of social instability markers. 12.3% of the participants had lost their mother, and 25.4% had lost their father. Despite reasonable knowledge of HIV, risk behaviours were also high for this age group, as 9.4% reported having had sexual intercourse. Qualitative findings indicated that most young people had high expectations for future achievement, including completion of higher level studies. Participants explained the range of acceptability surrounding different violent and sexual behaviors, and shared their perceptions of sexual debut and HIV risk. These data suggest a disconnect between young adolescents' knowledge of risk in general and their perception of personal risk, and further imply that structural violence may influence risk-taking behaviors among youth.

Learning Objectives:

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

I wish to disclose that I have NO financial interests or other relationship with the manufactures of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services or commercial supporters.

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The 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition (December 10-14, 2005) of APHA