December 3 2013 at 12:28pm By NTANDO MAKHUBU
Pretoria - South Africa’s young people are continuously engaging in risky behaviour and exposing themselves to HIV and Aids infection, but interventions are in place to change this and reduce the high burden of the disease.
According to the results of a baseline research project carried out in Mamelodi, a large number of young people had two or more sexual partners and often had unprotected sex, sometimes with strangers.
The results form part of Musa Manganye’s PhD research project, which is looking into the risky behaviour of young adults who drink alcohol.
The initial phase found that most of the target group admitted to having had a sexually transmitted infection.
“A substantial number of our subjects said they engaged in sexual activities for money or other benefits, and others had casual sex with random people whom they met in bars and taverns,” he said.
Manganye, a national manager for the mobile men and migrants unit of the SA National Aids Council, said the objective of his project was to evaluate the extent to which alcohol influenced risky behaviour.
It is ultimately aimed at coming up with interventions to curb such behaviour, which leads to HIV and Aids infection.
The project is based on the universally tried and tested Clear concept (Choosing Life, Empowerment, Action, Results), which has proven that when given information, young people identify their problems and change their behaviour.
It has also found that people do not simply change their behaviour because they are given information. There have to be follow-ups, to encourage them to put the information to good use.
The project is also in line with the national health department’s goal to reduce infections and reinfections, especially among the youth.
It was an academic contribution to strategies to meet the ideals of zero infections, zero discrimination and zero Aids-related deaths, said Manganye.
He has a passion for improving the lives of children and young adults, and when he registered last year for his doctorate in public health with the University of Limpopo, Medunsa Campus, he chose his research topic with a view to reducing alcohol-related risk behaviour.
After they were screened to ensure they met all the requirements the process started and information was shared with some.
That is the stage at which Manganye’s proposal landed in the hands of the Department of Health’s Public Health Enhancement Fund, a R20-million partnership with the 22 leading private sector health-care companies to fund postgraduate health studies.
Manganye’s project met the rigorous scrutiny of the HIV and TB-based aspect of the agreement between these health stakeholders that want to produce PhDs and Master’s in public health by sponsoring research work.
Manganye said: “The review process was very intense, our proposals were taken through a very severe process to ensure they could be aligned to national projects, and I am honoured to have passed the test.”
He is one of only 25 researchers being sponsored by the project, and he said this made him realise the importance of his work in contributing to the national strategy.
Human health initiatives required support to make a difference, he said, adding that his project was extensive and needed all the support it could get.
The project will soon move into its second phase, in which subjects will be followed up and assessed for effectiveness of the first phase.
Manganye said Clear taught those they reached to develop goals and visions and engage in problem-solving.
Many young people did not know how to deal with the dynamics of sexual relationships effectively, he said, adding that peer pressure counted among the dynamics that resulted in risky behaviour.
That Clear was an effective means of changing behaviour and reducing risk had been proven in other countries.
* That people who drink alcohol engage in unprotected sex, multiple partnering and commercial sex more often than non-drinkers.
* That drinking venues create opportunities for youths to drink alcohol and meet casual partners.