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01 December 2005

Factsheet 4 : Perceptions of being invulnerable to HIV.

Press Release

An individual’s belief in his or her personal susceptibility to illness or disease is an important element in health behaviour and influences whether someone adopts risk-reducing behaviour and/or preventive strategies.

In this study respondents were asked how they would rate themselves on a scale of 1-4 in terms of risk of becoming infected with HIV and their reasons for believing so. The main finding is that about two-thirds (66%) of the adult and youth participants in the study felt that they would not get infected with HIV.

Table 3.46: Self-rating of own risk of becoming infected with HIV among respondents aged 15 years and older, South Africa 2005

Ranking Response category n %
1 I will not get infected 6021 32.7
2 I probably won’t get infected 5179 33.2
3 I am probably going to get infected 4676 31.8
4 I am definitely going to get infected 247 2.2

When asked what the reasons were for those who believed that they would not get infected, prominent responses included being faithful to their partner or trusting their partner, abstaining from sex, always using condoms, and not being sexually active (Table 3.49).

Table 3.49: Reasons respondents aged 15 years and older believed they would not get infected (n = 11 100), South Africa 2005

Reasons n %
Faithful to one partner or trust my partner 5 208 46.4
Now abstaining from sex 2 630 22.6
Always use condoms 1 676 19
Have never had sex before 1 849 14.3
Do not have sex with prostitutes/sex workers 454 5.2
Do not share used needles or body piercing instruments 563 5.1
Know that both my partner and I have tested negative for HIV/AIDS 229 1.9
Other* 1 066 9.7

Note: * Includes ‘God protects me’, ‘my ancestors protect me’, ‘HIV does not occur in my community’, ‘it is an urban disease’, ‘it is a white disease’, ‘it is a black disease’, ‘it is a rural disease’, ‘it is a woman’s disease’ and ‘other’ unspecified.

Age is often a mediating factor that influences a person’s likelihood to take action to change his or her lifestyle. In this study, the older participants (50 years and above) felt less vulnerable to HIV than younger participants. The group that felt most vulnerable to HIV infection was those aged 25-49 years. This is consistent with prevalence in this age group.

The findings indicated that more participants who perceive themselves to be at high risk of HIV infection had been for an HIV test.

Of major concern is that more females (12.8%) than males (7.5%) who perceived themselves to be at low risk of being infected by HIV, were found to be HIV positive in this study.

The majority of Africans indicated that they were more vulnerable to HIV infection, a perception that is related to high prevalence in this group.

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