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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e30669. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030669. Epub 2012 Feb 17.

HIV prevention in high-risk women in South Africa: condom use and the need for change.

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  • 1Centre for AIDS Programme of Research in South African (CAPRISA), University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa.



Young women are at disproportionate risk of HIV infection in South Africa. Understanding risk behaviors and factors associated with ability to negotiate safe sex and condom use is likely to be key in curbing the spread of HIV. Traditionally prevention efforts have focused on creating behavioral changes by increasing knowledge about HIV/AIDS.


This was a cross-sectional analysis from a prospective observational cohort study of 245 women at a high-risk of HIV infection in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.


Participants demonstrated a high level of HIV/AIDS knowledge. Overall, 60.3% of participants reported condom use. Reported condom use at last sexual encounter varied slightly by partner type (57.0% with steady versus 64.4% with casual partners), and self-perceived ability to choose to use a condom was significantly lower with steady partners compared to casual partners (p<0.01). In multivariate analysis, women who had high school education were more likely to use condoms at their last sex encounter compared to those with only primary school education (RR of 1.36 (95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.06-1.75) and 1.46 (95% CI 1.13-1.88) for grades 8-10 and 11-12, respectively). Those who used condoms as a contraceptive method were twice as likely to use condoms compared to women who did not report using them as a contraceptive method. Greater perceived ability to choose to use condoms was associated with higher self-reported condom use at last encounter, irrespective of partner type (RR = 2.65 (95% CI 2.15-32.5).


Self-perceived ability to use condoms, level of formal education and condom use as a contraceptive were all significantly associated with self-reported condom use at last sexual encounter. These findings suggest that that gender inequality and access to formal education, as opposed to lack of HIV/AIDS knowledge, prevent safer sexual practices in South Africa.

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