Self-reported sexual experiences, sexual conduct and safer-sex practices of Ethiopian undergraduate male and female students in the context of HIV/AIDS pandemic
Fetene, Getnet Tizazu
MetadataShow full item record
By using a mixed methodology, the current study sought to explore the sexual experiences, sexual conduct and safer/unsafe sex practices of Ethiopian male and female undergraduate students in the context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic rampant in the country. To that end, the study investigated: college students' narrated sexual experiences, their perceived sexual relations and experiences, the degree of students' engagement in negotiated safer-sex practices, and factors facilitating/constraining students' intention to- and past use of condoms. Data gathered from a 43-item survey questionnaire administered among randomly chosen undergraduate students ( N = 575) in Addis Ababa University revealed that 40% of the students were sexually active. Empirical materials garnered largely from focus group discussions with 20 college students (10 male and female) of diverse profile revealed that Ethiopian undergraduate students were sexually engaged dominantly with one another and less dominantly with non-college people. Students' sexual engagement with people outside colleges included female students' sexual relations with "sugar daddies" and male students' sexual experience with high school students, and less commonly with commercial sex workers. Despite critiquing each other's motives, female and male students had generally positive perceptions towards the sexual relations existing amongst themselves. They were, however, critical of relations female students had with "sugar daddies", and sexual affairs between male students and commercial sex workers. The qualitative data further revealed that college students rarely negotiated their sexual relations; often, male students initiated sexual relations initially acting as caring hosts, information providers, and academic tutors, but later exhibiting their real sexual motives. Female students were presented as people who passively or sub-consciously succumb into young men's trickeries into sex after momentary resistance. Parallel to that, some female students exhibited a sub-culture of entitlement to sexual pleasures--a discourse missing in related studies. Albeit some positive signs of safer sex practices, students' overall sexual practices were characterized by unsafe sex (procrastinating HIV testing, promiscuity, non-condom use, and absence of meaningful communications on sexual matters). Risky behaviors including alcohol and /or chat (plant stimulant) were reported to have led the college youth to risky sexual behaviors, including sex with having commercial sex workers without condoms. Regarding condom use, a correlation analysis has indicated a significant association between intention to use condoms and past condom use among respondents of the total sample ( r = .45 p < .01), and among sexually active respondents ( r = .55, p < .01). Regression analyses showed causal relations between the two dependent variables (past condom use and intention to use condom) and the TPB variables (Ajzen 1991) suggesting indications for possible interventions. Students' intention to use condoms was significantly predicted by students' attitude towards condom use, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control i.e. skills and abilities to use condoms. Perceived behavioral control and attitude were found to be significant predictors of students' past condom use. The overall implication of all this is the greater the students' skills and their ability to use condoms, the more they use condoms; and the higher their positive attitude towards condom, the more likely for them to use condoms. Qualitative data further showed that students' high level of knowledge about condom use and HIV/AIDS, but students' failure to translate it into protective behaviors implying the need for interventions beyond provision of knowledge. Among other things, the study underlined the need to raise students' positive attitudes towards condoms and developing students' skills and abilities in using condoms through peer-led education and training of life skills. The study also called for additional investigations on students' sexual experiences and safer/unsafe practices in regional universities and colleges situated in small towns.