The social construction of relationships, HIV risk behaviours and the management of risk among young people in a rural community in the Eastern Cape Province.
Young people in rural contexts in South Africa continue to bear a significant burden of HIV/AIDS despite awareness and knowledge about HIV transmission. The aim of this study was to investigate the social constructions of relationships and HIV risk behaviours among young people in a rural community which may assist in understanding how they manage HIV risk within their social context. Data sampled from a broader project consisted of six focus groups and nine interviews conducted with approximately 60 participants in the 10–25 year age group. Using thematic content analysis and thematic decomposition, the findings highlighted that relationships were significant for the development of young people.Local terms “ukudyola” or “bayathandana” were used to refer to relationships and these were constructed to illustrate different relationship expectations and practices. Monogamy was valued despite reports of some young people engaging in age-discrepant relationships and multiple concurrent relationships. Parental advice on relationships was in tension with young people’s relationship views thus contributing less in effecting behaviour change. The participants’constructions of risk behaviours served to reinforce risk taking and the underlying problems associated with condom use and HCT reinforced risk behaviours. Overall the participantsdid not actively challenge dominant discourses that contributed to their risk thus they could not adequalty address risk when in relationships.