Harmful alcohol use by South African youth is associated with multiple risks to sexual health. Soul City Institute, an affiliate of the STRIVE research consortium, conducted a community based study in a rural village in Mpumalanga and an urban township in Gauteng, South Africa to:
- assess the density of alcohol outlets in one urban and one rural community
- explore young people’s perspectives on alcohol advertising, marketing and availability, as well as their drinking patterns and sexual health and safety
Soul City’s research was one element in STRIVE’s three-country alcohol study, with similar surveys and analysis in Delhi, India and Mwanza, Tanzania.
Many alcohol outlets are located within a 500m radius of schools, and school-going youth have opportunities to buy alcohol during school hours. The use of colour, images and creative slogans make alcohol advertising attractive to youth. Adverts showing young people having fun encourage young people to try different brands and beverages.
Youth access to taverns is facilitated by promotional activities and pricing including celebrity events, competitions and discounts that include ‘happy hour’, ‘ladies’ night' and ‘buy 1, get 1 free'.
In interviews, young people reported that they frequently witness and experience alcohol-related sexual health risks in and around taverns in their communities. These include unprotected and unplanned sex, sex that is later regretted and sexual assault, including while travelling home from taverns. These were said to be common experiences in and around taverns and their communities.
- Appropriate alcohol legislation, such as regulating alcohol marketing, increasing prices and limiting outlet density, needs to be implemented to ensure multiple positive health and social outcomes.
- There is a need to shift the focus from individual responsibility to structural issues, such as policies and environmental influences, when addressing alcohol misuse.
- Alcohol marketing needs greater regulation and monitoring.
- Greater effort must be made to create opportunities for youth, community and the public at large to engage in the alcohol policy development process.
Soul City colleagues disseminated this policy brief at a media briefing in Johannesburg in February 2017.