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Health Policy Plan. 2001 Mar;16(1):107-12.

Sexual behaviour and sexually transmitted diseases among young men in Zambia.

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Institute of Economic and Social Research (formerly Institute of African Studies), P O Box 30900, University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia.


Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are an increasing public health problem in Zambia. About 200 000 cases of STDs are treated annually in the formal health sector. Young people are the most affected by STDs. High-risk sexual behaviour has been identified as the major risk factor for STDs among young people. We conducted interviews and focus group discussions with a purposely selected sample of 126 young men aged between 16 and 26 in Chiawa, rural Zambia. The aim of the interviews and focus group discussions was to explore views about sexual practices and attitudes towards STD. Fifty-eight (59%) young men reported having had pre-marital or extra-marital sexual partners during the past year. The maximum number was five partners for six individuals. Forty-two (43%) had pre-marital or extra-marital sexual partners at the time of the interviews. Focus group discussions revealed that perceptions of manhood encouraged multiple sexual relationships. Twenty-two (23%) reported having suffered from an STD in the past. Seventy-nine (81%) said they were likely to inform their sexual partners if they had an STD. Although condoms were believed to give protection against STDs by the majority (94%), only 6% said they always used condoms. The data suggest that condoms were perceived to affect male potency. These results show that STDs, multiple sexual relationships and unprotected sex are common among the young men of Chiawa. Perceptions that emphasize manhood are widespread and these may negatively affect efforts for positive behavioural change. Health messages that target the young men should take into account the local perceptions and values that seem to sustain risky sexual behaviour.

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