Research Article

Factors influencing HIV-risk perception among MSM students at a university in Durban, South Africa

Published in: African Journal of AIDS Research
Volume 20, issue 3, 2021 , pages: 244–253
DOI: 10.2989/16085906.2021.1981413
Author(s): Geogina Charity Gumindega, South Africa, Pranitha Maharaj, South Africa

Abstract

Risk perception is embedded in attitudes and beliefs that determine how one ultimately behaves. In relation to HIV-risk behaviours, risk perception is a key dimension in most health behaviour models used to construct health promotion campaigns. This study aimed to understand HIV-risk perception and associated factors among men who have sex with men (MSM). The qualitative data used in this study came from 15 in-depth interviews with MSM studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. The findings show that MSM perceive themselves to be at risk for HIV due to their awareness of the main routes of infection. This perception exists because HIV has affected them through the loss of close family members. With each sexual encounter, risk perception changed based on factors such as the sexual role being assumed (insertive versus receptive), the socio-economic status of the partner, perceived level of discriminatory dating patterns, and the use of preventive measures. High levels of risk perception among the men did not translate into positive attitudes towards condoms as many of them preferred to have unprotected sex with trusted partners. Despite perceiving their risk of HIV infection to be high, MSM continue to engage in multiple sexual partnerships and high partner turnover. However, the men in this study were keen to protect their health; with time, they have developed more positive attitudes towards HIV and they understand that it is possible to protect oneself before and after infection.

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