Correlates of HIV perceived risks and protective strategies among adolescents in rural Malawi.
The study examined correlates of HIV perceived risks and protective strategies among adolescents in rural Malawi i.e. whether there was an association between socio demographic characteristics of adolescents and subsequent HIV perceived risks and protective strategies. Age at sexual debut is a variable of interest in this study. The objectives were to investigate whether age at first sexual intercourse does influence adolescents’ individual’s risk perceptions of HIV and protective strategies, i.e. does age at first sex set a precedence in the thinking of adolescentswith regards HIV risks and protective strategies such as condom use. Data: This study uses cross sectional data from Wave 3 of a wider study, the Malawi Diffusion and Ideational Change Project (MDICP).The MDICP is a joint collaboration between researchers from the Population Studies Centre at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Malawi‘s College of Medicine and Chancellor College. In this study, a multiple regression analysis on the cross sectional data from the 2004 wave 3of the Malawi Diffusion and Ideational Change Project was done. The focus of this study is on the relationship between age at first sexual intercourse and the individual‘s perception of risk of HIV/AIDS and protective strategies, it examines if there is an association between the two factors. Descriptive analysis: Descriptive statistics to obtain the frequencies of the main variables of interest such as the background characteristics of respondents (gender, marital status, mean age at sexual debut, education, economic status of household) were computed in order to better understand the population under study. Multivariate Analysis: Three separate models were employed; two multinomial regression analysis measuring worry and likelihood of infection against socio demographic variables and a binary logistic regression measuring condom use and the socio demographic variables. Relative Risk Ratios were used to interpret the multinomial logistic regression output while odds ratios were used to interpret the logistic output. Results: Consistent with existing literature, results indicate that early age at first sex is a predictor of HIV risk perceptions and protective strategies. Age at first sex does set a precedence in the future thinking of adolescents with regards to how they perceive HIV risks, as well as how they perceive protective strategies against HIV-particularly condom use. This study confirms that age at first sex alongside with other socio demographic variables are significantly associated with HIV risk perceptions HIV and condom use, while other factors may matter, such as gender, region, HIV knowledge, religion or educational level. Limitations: The information on age at first sexual encounter was based exclusively on respondent’s self–reports. This data collection method often has limitations that are attributed to the tendency for people to under-report socially unacceptable behaviours (e.g. having multiple sex partners) and to over-report socially acceptable behavior. The other limitation is that the study lacks longitudinal data to allow a more in-depth analysis of trends in HIV/AIDS-related indicators.
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