Pregnant or positive: Adolescent childbearing and HIV risk in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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In communities where early age of childbearing is common and HIV prevalence is high, adolescents may place themselves at risk of HIV because positive or ambivalent attitudes towards pregnancy reduce their motivation to abstain from sex, have sex less often or use condoms. In this study, we analyse cross-sectional survey data from KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, to explore whether an association exists between the desire for pregnancy and perceptions of HIV risk among 1,426 adolescents in 110 local communities. Our findings suggest that some adolescents, girls more than boys, were more concerned about a pregnancy if they lived in environments where youth were perceived to be at high risk of HIV infection. The probability that pregnancy was considered a problem by boys was positively correlated with the proportion of adult community members who thought youth were at risk of acquiring HIV, and for girls by the proportion of peers in the community who thought youth were at risk of HIV. We also found that becoming pregnant would be a bigger problem for the African girls than the white and Indian girls. The analysis suggests that for some adolescents, in addition to effects on educational and employment opportunities, the danger of HIV infection is becoming part of the calculus of the desirability of a pregnancy.






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