, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 237-250

Understanding Perceptions of HIV Risk Among Adolescents in KwaZulu-Natal

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Abstract

Risk perception has been theorized to be an important antecedent for adopting protective behavior. It is a key construct of research applying the Health Belief Model and other behavior change models. In relation to HIV, risk perception is an indicator of perceived susceptibility to infection, a measure for one's understanding of AIDS transmission as well as willingness to consider behavioral changes. However, there remains much we do not know about what drives risk perception, especially among youth. This study identifies factors that influence the calculation of HIV-risk perception among a group of adolescents in South Africa. Data, collected in 1999 from 2,716 adolescents aged 14–22, are used to explore factors predicting risk perception. Logistic regression models suggest connectedness to parents and community for males and females, self-efficacy to use a condom among males, and living in a household with a chronically ill member for females are associated with HIV risk perception. We conclude that a greater understanding of the connection of adolescents to their communities and adults in their lives is needed, and ways in which programs can alter the environments in which adolescents form opinions, make choices, and act should be incorporated into program design.