Sexual risk amongst teenage mothers in a selected KwaZulu-Natal secondary school within a context of HIV/AIDS.
Statistics demonstrate that HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a global and national challenge, with major difficulties being experienced in the numerous efforts to curb the transmission of HIV. In addition, research highlights that teenage pregnancy is an emerging social concern globally, which bears testimony to the ineffectiveness of efforts to promote safe sex. High rates of teenage pregnancy can be attributed to unsafe sex and insufficient and incorrect knowledge related to sexual risk. Despite the negative consequences associated with teenage pregnancy, such as social stigma and gender-inequitable challenges in parenting, scholars argue that teenage mothers being neglected and cast aside contributes to further engagement in risky sexual behaviours and possibilities for repeat pregnancies despite challenges experienced during the first pregnancy. This study explores teenage mothers’ understanding of sexual risk in a context of HIV/AIDS. Aspects related to risky sexual behaviour were examined, such as the prevalence of HIV, the role of gender power in affirming gender-specific roles, teenage pregnancy and motherhood as a social concern, sexual risk factors such as poverty, the media, alcohol, drugs, peer pressure, barriers to utilising contraceptives, transactional relationships, love, trust, coercion, violence and sexual decision making. Despite the availability of a wide spectrum of research on risk factors, there is a paucity of literature about the understanding of sexual risk amongst teenage mothers and its influence on their sexual behaviour post pregnancy. Therefore, this qualitative study sought to explore the understanding of sexual risk amongst 11 purposefully selected teenage mothers from a secondary school on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal. The study, located within the interpretive paradigm, adopted individual interviews to gain an understanding of sexual risks amongst teenage mothers and the ways in which their knowledge served to influence their choices relating to sex post pregnancy. The data was analysed utilising thematic analysis to demonstrate explicit and implicit ideas identified within the data. The findings revealed eleven themes which illustrated that: teenage mothers in this study regretted their decisions to engage in the risky sexual behaviour that contributed to their pregnancies; in turn this influenced their decisions to engage in safe sex post pregnancy to avoid repeat pregnancies that would interrupt the achievement of their educational goals. While teenage mothers in this study acknowledged that they have learnt their lesson, they reported that teenage mothers they are acquainted with continue to engage in sexual behaviours that are risky. This research study revealed that negative consequences associated with motherhood played a role in bringing change to their prior risky sexual behaviours. The findings of this study validate the theory of social constructionism as articulated by Burr (2003), whereby identities are fluid and dynamic owing to interactions within various social contexts. Furthermore, the theory of performativity by Butler (1990) was utilised in framing this study because it asserts that identities are not what we possess, but are performances of gender that vary in different contexts and times. Implications for education and future research were drawn from the findings of this study.
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