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Afr J AIDS Res. 2011 Jan 1;10(2):181-187.

HIV misconceptions associated with condom use among black South Africans: an exploratory study.

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  • 1Children's Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School, Division of General Pediatrics, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, United States.


In South Africa, approximately 20% of 15-49-year-olds are infected with HIV. Among black South Africans, high levels of HIV/AIDS misconceptions (e.g. HIV is manufactured by whites to reduce the black African population; AIDS is caused by supernatural forces or witchcraft) may be barriers to HIV prevention. We conducted a cross-sectional study of 150 young, black adults (aged 18-26; 56% males) visiting a public clinic for sexually transmitted infections, to investigate whether HIV/AIDS misconceptions were related to low condom use in main partner relationships. We assessed agreement with HIV/AIDS misconceptions relating to the supernatural (e.g. witchcraft as a cause of HIV) and to genocide (e.g. the withholding of a cure). In multivariate models, agreement that 'Witchcraft plays a role in HIV transmission' was significantly related to less positive attitudes about condoms, less belief in condom effectiveness for HIV prevention, and lower intentions to use condoms among men. The belief that 'Vitamins and fresh fruits and vegetables can cure AIDS' was associated with lower intentions among men to use condoms. Women who endorsed the belief linking HIV to witchcraft had a higher likelihood of unprotected sex with a main partner, whereas women who endorsed the belief that a cure for AIDS was being withheld had a lower likelihood of having had unprotected sex. Knowledge about distinct types of HIV/AIDS misconceptions and their correlates can help in the design of culturally appropriate HIV-prevention messages that address such beliefs.

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