Forced Sex and HIV/AIDS

Both in South Africa and Canada, CIET has found evidence that victims of sexual violence are more likely to have forced others to have sex with them and to harbour views that increase the risk of HIV infection and AIDS.

In South Africa, CIET conducted a groundbreaking national survey of sexual violence and HIV/AIDS among youth. The study found several links between forced sex and HIV/AIDS. Youth who were victims of forced sex were more inclined to believe they were HIV positive, to have no intention of taking an HIV test, to say they would not inform their family if they were HIV positive, to believe that sex with a virgin could cure HIV or AIDS, and to say they would intentionally spread HIV. The study also found that female youth overall had a higher tendency than males to hold false perceptions about sexual violence that put them at high risk of HIV infection. See also an article, “Forced Sex and Risk of HIV Infection Among South African Youth”, published in the Sexuality in Africa Magazine.
Based on the findings from the national survey, CIET developed an eight-episode audio docudrama called Beyond Victims and Villains. This educational audio series has been used to raise awareness and inform discussions about sexual violence and HIV/AIDS in radio programmes, with small groups of youth, and in class settings across South Africa. We have trained several thousand teachers in the use of these resources.
A corrolary of forced sex is the lack of choice in sexual relations. In southern African countries, where one in every three has been forced to have sex by the age of 18 years, a very large proportion of the population is choice disabled. This group is at higher risk of HIV infection and unable to respond to AIDS prevention programmes. See CIET’s article on this subject in AIDS Research and Therapy. CIET is also conducting a pragmatic randomized controlled trial in Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland on AIDS prevention through reduced choice-disability.
In 2008 CIET conducted a systematic review of literature on the realtionship between gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS which was published at the end of that year in the journal AIDS. 
CIET has also undertaken two pilot studies in South Africa aimed at improving inter-generational communication between elders and youth about sexual risk and HIV risk, one in Limpopo province and one in Eastern Cape province. We are currently analyzing the results of these two studies.
In Canada, a study involving northern Aboriginal communities showed that youth who had been sexually abused were more likely to have forced sex on someone else. The communities have responded with plans to support latent youth resilience in dealing with sexual violence and preventing its future occurrence.
For more information on all of CIET’s work related to HIV and AIDS click here.