A social constructionist perspective of black female students' perceptions and management of risks of HIV/AIDS in sexual activity at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus.
Notwithstanding the increase in educational and preventative HIV/AIDS programmes, relatively little sexual behaviour change has been documented both locally and internationally. Insight about reasons for a lack of behaviour change in a context with a high HIV prevalence such as South Africa is thus critical. The aim of the study is to understand why it is that the rate of HIV infections amongst the student population remains high, particularly at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, despite the high exposure to HIV/AIDS prevention interventions/campaigns and also access to resources and educational programmes at this tertiary institution alone. In this study, the philosophical and methodological premise of social constructionism is adopted to potentially provide an alternative and significant conceptualisation of student sexual behaviour which has implications for understanding behaviour change in the field of HIV and AIDS. In this social constructionist study a sample of 9 Black African female university students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg campus, South Africa, was used to investigate the social constructions of risks in sexual activity and their implication for sexual practice and the management of these risks among educated university students. The key findings of this study was that although the sexually active black African female student participants demonstrated basic knowledge about risks and management of risks in sexual activity, risky behaviour was common and protective behaviour was low. This was justified by a range of discourses that informed students’ social construction of sexual activity, perception and management of risk as constructed by participants. It is suggested that HIV/AIDS education and preventative programmes, in order to be effective and to result in observable behaviour change, including in educated youth, should be designed to address and challenge the wider social discourses surrounding sexual behaviour.