Sexual Risk Behavior, Alcohol Use, and Social Media Use Among Secondary School Students in Informal Settlements in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Kaufman, Z.A.; Braunschweig, E.N.; Feeney, J; Dringus, S; Weiss, H; Delany-Moretlwe, S; Ross, D.A. Aids and Behaviour, 2014; Sexual Risk Behavior, Alcohol Use, and Social Media Use Among Secondary School Students in Informal Settlements

South Africa’s HIV prevalence among young people remains among the highest in the world. A cross-sectional study was carried out in 2012 to estimate prevalences of sexual risk behaviour and hazardous alcohol use (HAU) (via the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test) as well as to investigate potential associations between these outcomes and social media use.

In total 4,485 students (mean age 15.66 years) at 46 secondary schools in informal settlements in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth completed mobile-phone-assisted, self administered baseline questionnaires within a cluster-randomised trial. 

The results show that: 

  • 312 females (12.5%) and 468 males (23.5%) screened positive for HAU
  • 268 females (11.8%) and 730 males (39.9%) reported having two or more partners in the last year
  • among females, having a Facebook account was associated with reported multiple partnerships and age disparate sex in the last year
  • using Mxit - a popular mobile instant messaging application - was associated with higher odds of reported multiple partnerships in the last year as well as HAU among both males and females 

Further longitudinal and qualitative research should explore in more depth the observed links between social media and risk behaviour. 

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