Skip to main content


Log in

Condom Use Among South African University Students in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Sexuality & Culture Aims and scope Submit manuscript


South Africa has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, with young people particularly affected. Condoms are an effective preventative method against HIV among sexually active adults. This study assessed the level of condom usage among university students in South Africa and their attitudes towards condom usage, negotiation efficacy and confidence in condom usage. It was a cross-sectional study conducted amongst South African university students living at the university residences. Students were randomly selected and required to complete a self-administered questionnaire. The mean age of participants (n = 441) was 22.7 ± 4.3 years. The mean age of sexual debut was 17.7 ± 3.0 years with 1.4 ± 1.47 (range 0–13) current partners. Less than half of the students used a condom at sexual debut and only 28.5% used condoms during recent sexual activity. Those students who used a condom at first sexual intercourse had marginally more positive attitudes about condom usage than those who did not do so (p = 0.056). Students with a single current partner had more positive attitudes about condom usage than those with multiple current partners (p = 0.021). Only 32.5% (n = 127) of the students were very confident in using condoms. Similarly, only 33.0% (n = 130) of the participants felt that they could definitely negotiate condom use with their partners. We conclude that condom use among South African students is low and that they lack the confidence to use condoms. We recommend that programmes to step up condom use must also incorporate educational interventions on usage.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundation of thought and action: A social-cognitive view (Englewood Cliffs). NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beksinska, M. E., Smit, J. A., & Mantell, J. E. (2012). Progress and challenges to male and female condom use in South Africa. Sexual Health, 9(1), 51–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bhana, A., Zimmerman, R., & Cupp, P. (2008). Gender role attitudes and sexual risk among adolescents in South Africa. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, 3(2), 112–119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boyd, K., Perkins, P., Lawrence, K., Sutherland, J., & Blake, K. (2015). The female condom: Knowledge, image, and power. Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships, 1(3), 97–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DiClemente, R. J., & Wingood, G. M. (1995). A randomized controlled trial of an HIV sexual risk—reduction intervention for young African-American women. Journal of American Medical Association, 274(16), 1271–1276.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dube, N., Nkomo, T. S., & Khosa, P. (2017). Condom usage negotiation among customarily married women in Katlehong, Johannesburg. SAGE Open, 7(1), 2158244016687345.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Exavery, A., Kanté, A. M., Jackson, E., Noronha, J., Sikustahili, G., Tani, K., et al. (2012). Role of condom negotiation on condom use among women of reproductive age in three districts in Tanzania. BMC Public Health, 12(1), 1097.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Halperin, D. T., Steiner, M. J., Cassell, M. M., Green, E. C., Hearst, N., Kirby, D., et al. (2004). The time has come for common ground on preventing sexual transmission of HIV. The Lancet, 364(9449), 1913–1915.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hendriksen, E. S., Pettifor, A., Lee, S.-J., Coates, T. J., & Rees, H. V. (2007). Predictors of condom use among young adults in South Africa: The reproductive health and HIV research unit national youth survey. American Journal of Public Health, 97(7), 1241–1248.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hitchcock, L. (2016). KZN—Highest new HIV rate. Accessed 15 November 2016.

  • Hood, K. B., & Shook, N. J. (2013). Conceptualizing women’s attitudes toward condom use with the tripartite model. Women and Health, 53(4), 349–368.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • LoveLife (2017). Overview of loveLife. Accessed 10 February 2017.

  • Maharaj, P., & Cleland, J. (2005). Risk perception and condom use among married or cohabiting couples in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. International Family Planning Perspectives, 14(28), 24–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maharaj, P., & Cleland, J. (2006). Condoms become the norm in the sexual culture of college students in Durban, South Africa. Reproductive Health Matters, 14(28), 104–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mantell, J. E., Needham, S. L., Smit, J. A., Hoffman, S., Cebekhulu, Q., Adams-Skinner, J., et al. (2009). Gender norms in South Africa: Implications for HIV and pregnancy prevention among African and Indian women students at a South African tertiary institution. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 11(2), 139–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCall, S., Brady, C., Carlton, K., & Boyd, K. (2016). Condom negotiation efficacy and condom use attitudes as predictors of condom use in African American college students. Journal of AIDS and Clinical Research.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mfecane, S. (2013). Can women ‘refuse’condoms? Dilemmas of condom negotiation among men living with HIV in South Africa. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 15(3), 269–282.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mullinax, M., Sanders, S., Dennis, B., Higgins, J., Fortenberry, J. D., & Reece, M. (2017). How condom discontinuation occurs: interviews with emerging adult women. The Journal of Sex Research, 54(4–5), 642–650.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mulwo, A. K., Tomaselli, K. G., & Dalrymple, L. (2009). Condom brands, perceptions of condom efficacy and HIV prevention among university students in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. African Journal of AIDS Research, 8(3), 311–320.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mustanski, B., Starks, T., & Newcomb, M. E. (2014). Methods for the design and analysis of relationship and partner effects on sexual health. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43(1), 21–33.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Osuafor, G. N., & Mturi, A. J. (2014). Attitude towards sexual control among women in conjugal union in the era of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Mahikeng, South Africa. Etude de la Population Africaine, 28(1), 538.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pitpitan, E. V., Kalichman, S. C., Cain, D., Eaton, L. A., Carey, K. B., Carey, M. P., et al. (2012). Condom negotiation, HIV testing, and HIV risks among women from alcohol serving venues in Cape Town, South Africa. PloS One, 7(10), e45631.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pletzer, K. (2000). Factors affecting condom use among South African University students. East African Medical Journal, 77(1), 46–52.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sheeran, P., Abraham, C., & Orbell, S. (1999). Psychosocial correlates of heterosexual condom use: A meta-analysis. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shisana, O., Rehle, T., Simbayi, L., Zuma, K., & Jooste, S. (2009). South African national HIV prevalence incidence behaviour and communication survey 2008: A turning tide among teenagers?. Cape Town: HSRC Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Simbayi, L., Chauveau, J., & Shisana, O. (2004). Behavioural responses of South African youth to the HIV/AIDS epidemic: A nationwide survey. AIDS Care, 16(5), 605–618.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Society for Family Health (2015). Condom Distribution. Accessed 12 February 2017.

  • UNAIDS. (2013). UNAIDS update: How Africa turned AIDS around. Geneva: Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.

    Google Scholar 

  • UNAIDS & WHO. (2006). AIDS epidemic update (pp. 1–90). Geneva: UNAIDS. World Health Organization.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wingood, G. M., & DiClemente, R. J. (2000). Application of the theory of gender and power to examine HIV-related exposures, risk factors, and effective interventions for women. Health Education & Behavior, 27(5), 539–565.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work is based on research support by the National Research Foundation of South Africa for the grant, Unique Grant No. 99315. The researchers thank Dr. E. Taylor, Mr. S. Mpangase and Ms. K. Khumalo for assisting with the data collection. We also thank Ms. G. Zondi and Ms. R. Sanjit for administrative assistance. We are grateful to all the students who participated in the study.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Firoza Haffejee.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Ethical clearance was obtained from the Durban University of Technology Institutional Research Ethics Committee (IREC 084/16).

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Haffejee, F., Koorbanally, D. & Corona, R. Condom Use Among South African University Students in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal. Sexuality & Culture 22, 1279–1289 (2018).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: