Independent On-Line, 06 December 2002, We're changing our sexual behaviour

South Africans have modified their sexual behaviour in the face of the HIV/Aids epidemic, the Nelson Mandela/Human Sciences Research Council study of HIV/Aids had found.

The survey found that the average age at which young South Africans became sexually active was 16. Researchers also found that a large majority of respondents who were sexually active had only had one partner and about 40 percent had either not had sex before, or had abstained during the past 12 months.

This was similar to trends in
Uganda, where the country managed to reverse the steep upward curve of the epidemic by encouraging people to be faithful or to abstain.

The average age of sexual debut among South Africans of both sexes who are now 25 was 18 years, but this dropped significantly among younger age groups.

The average age of sexual debut among those respondents who are now aged between 25 and 34 was 17, and for 35 to 44-year-olds it was 18 years. Among sexually active 15 to 24-year-olds the average age was 16 years.

The good news was that very low levels of sexual activity were reported among children in the 12 to 14 year age group, and relatively low levels (25 percent) among 15 to 17-year-old youth.

This finding differs from that of other studies. For example, 31 percent of 12 to 17-year-old youths were reported to be sexually active in a 2001 loveLife survey, while 13 percent of 12 to 14-year-olds and 42 percent of 15 to 17-year-olds were reported to be sexually active in a 2002 loveLife study.