Awareness of the risks of HIV infection by Zimbabwean urban and rural high school attendees
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Objectives: The purpose of this report was to investigate the awareness by high school attendees of risky behavior likely to lead to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS and to assess their preparedness to prevent or obviate the consequences. Design: Cross sectional study. Settings: A small town located 100 km south of the Zimbabwean capital, Harare and in communal and commercial farming areas within a 50 km radius of the town. Methods: With the permission of school authorities, a group of second year medical students from the University of Zimbabwe on rural attachment administered an anonymous questionnaire to teenagers attending four high schools in the study area. Specific questions to determine whether the teenagers were sexually active and if they used any protection during sex were incorporated into a general and environmental health questionnaire. Results: A total of 241 teenagers, 153 boys and 89 girls from all four schools completed the questionnaire. The percentages of sexually active boys (48%) and girls, (49%) were similar. The majority had heterosexual preferences, 4.6% boys were homosexual. Half (50%) of the 16 year old pupils were sexually active. There were more urban than rural school attendees who reported personal knowledge of someone with HIV or AIDS. Condom use was low. Conclusion: We found that half of the 16 to 19 year old students were sexually active. Rural school attendees were more likely to be sexually active and less likely to practice safe sex. We conclude that the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV) amongst these teenagers is significant and recommend that, there is a need to design a group targeted awareness programme in order to obviate sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.