Research articles

Racing risk, gendering responsibility: a qualitative study of how South African students talk about sexual risk and responsibility

Published in: African Journal of AIDS Research
Volume 13, issue 4, 2014 , pages: 361–369
DOI: 10.2989/16085906.2014.985235
Author(s): Mary van der RietPsychology, School of Applied Human Sciences, South Africa, Tamaryn Jane NicholsonPsychology, School of Applied Human Sciences, South Africa


Individuals’ perceptions of risk have implications for whether and how they engage with protective strategies. This study investigated how sexual risk, specifically HIV and pregnancy and responsibility for these risks were constructed in discussions across five groups of youth in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The qualitative study used focus groups and interviews with a sample of 28 tertiary level students and 7 peri-urban youth. The constructions of risk intersected with raced and gendered narratives around sexual risk and responsibility. These constructions were used by the participants to assign and displace responsibility for the risks of HIV and pregnancy, rendering some groups immune to these risks. This constitutes a form of stigmatisation and also has implications for participants’ prevention practices.

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