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How do the Youth in Two Communities make Decisions about Using condoms?

Year: 2001
Working paper number: 002
Author: Skinner, Donald
Unit: ASRU

From the behavioural perspective, there is a key problem that needs to be overcome to enable effective action against the HIV epidemic. Why do people who are aware of and understand the nature of the HIV epidemic and how to protect themselves, choose to behave in a manner that puts them at risk? Historically, the social sciences have proposed multiple theories that attempt to explain how people make decisions, about the nature and structure of conscious thought, and how information is processed. There are acknowledged gaps in these theories, but what will be argued here is that an improved application of this theory may give us better direction. This paper will examine how the youth in two communities near Cape Town make decisions about condom usage. Three theories will be employed to attempt to understand the data collected - namely Lay Theory, Theory of Reasoned Action and Theory of Planned Behaviour. During the research, information was obtained from 43 depth interviews, two focus groups and a survey of 406 respondents. The theories are able to examine, from different perspectives, problems behind the behaviour choice. Using the data from the depth interviews and the focus groups, Lay Theory offered the following explanations: culture was influential in supporting gender dominance and multi-partner sexuality; and in social situations, both men and women felt a pressure to conform to pre-set roles, to undermine condom usage and to emphasize sexual pleasure. The Theories of Reasoned Action and Planned Behaviour offer more insight into individual decision processes by examining the roles of attitudes, the influence of those close to the person, and perceived controls of behaviour. Factors that were important included sexual desire, love, fear of partner's anger and whether there was knowledge of where to get condoms and how to use them. The data generally showed a lack of belief on the part of the respondents that AIDS really would affect them. These theories do not provide all the answers, but taken together they could provide some useful insights into the contribution of psychology theory and on how to design and implement intervention campaigns.

Publication file: wp2.pdf