"We just do it … we are dead already": Exploring the sexual behaviors of youth living with HIV
Journal of Adolescence
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Edith Cowan University Higher Degree by Research Scholarship
INTRODUCTION: This study aims to describe the sexual behaviors of youth living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Malawi. As a high-risk population, understanding the contextual factors that shape their sexual behaviors is of particular interest when designing strategies to reduce HIV transmission. METHODS: Semi-structured qualitative interviews were used to collect information about sexual behaviors from 22 youth (12 females and 10 males) living with HIV aged from 15 to 24 years. All participants were recruited from a specialized HIV clinic in Malawi. Thematic analysis was applied to identify current themes. RESULTS: The majority of participants were sexually active. Engaging in sexual behaviors was largely related to social processes identified in three main themes: (1) Risk-taking in pursuit of confidence and maturity; (2) A lack of voice in decision making concerning practising safe sex; (3) Perceived barriers to safe sex practice such as poverty, dropping out of school, and personal perspectives about transmitting HIV to others. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that prevention strategies targeting youth social and economic vulnerabilities to social influences are needed to enhance their personal and social skills. We suggest nurturing cultural and religious ceremonies and involving elders to equip youth with skills and knowledge for the prevention of HIV transmission.