Gender and HIV / AIDS : examining HIV/AIDS communication among Black students in heterosexual relationships at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College campus.
Njawala, Latifa Venant.
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HIV/AIDS is a prominent health concern internationally. This pandemic continues to be a major disaster throughout Africa. South Africa is among the nations with extremely high rates of people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Higher education learners in South Africa constitute a large portion of people affected by HIV. By 2010, Higher Education HIV/AIDS [HEAIDS] estimated that one in four students in South Africa is infected with HIV. Overall prevalence of HIV among University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) students is 2.4 percent (Higher Education and HIV/AIDS – HEAIDS, 2008; 2010). Current statistics also show that in South Africa, 18.8 percent of the youth are sexually active, including university students aged between 15 and 49 are living with HIV (Human Sciences Research Council – HSRC, 2014). This indicates how serious the HIV epidemic is in the country in general, and in the education sector in particular. This study presents findings from research conducted at the Durban-based UKZN, Howard College Campus, on March 2015. Based on qualitative research methods, the essential objective of this study is to explore gender relations among black students of African ancestry in heterosexual relationships, in relation to HIV/AIDS communication. Specifically, the study endeavours to establish whether students in heterosexual relationships communicate about HIV/AIDS, in relation with the existing gender relations. Sixteen UKZN black students, eight female and eight male, formed the sample of the study. The study is informed by three different, but related theories, namely interpersonal communication, social constructionism, and feminist post-structuralism. Semi-structured one-on-one interviews and focus group discussion were used for data collection. The data were thematically analysed and discussed. Results indicate the majority of students 87.5 percent interviewed communicate about HIV/AIDS among themselves. Only a few communicated 33 percent in a gender sensitive way, while the majority 55.5 percent students’ communication system is gendered. The study found that lack of communication, and the existence of this gendered communication among heterosexual partners may put partners at risk of HIV/AIDS infection. The study also shows that there is little understanding on the gender concept and what it constitutes. This suggests that enough knowledge on gender and HIV/AIDS communication is based on gender equality among students in heterosexual relationships, is an imperative stimulus on HIV/AIDS preventive practices.