South Africa: Sexual Violence & HIV/AIDS National Youth Survey, 2001-2004

Between 2001 and 2004, CIETafrica carried out the first national youth survey of sexual violence in the country. The results expose the cultural roots of sexual violence and reveal the attitudes, beliefs, and experiences that enable and facilitate this culture. The study also confirms the connection between sexual violence and HIV/AIDS, and finds that young boys may be as vulnerable to sexual abuse as girls (in some instances vulnerable to abuse by girls). 

These findings – drawn from successive cycles of interviews with 283 000 learners nationwide – indicate a shift in the culture of sexual violence identified by CIET’s first survey on the problem in Gauteng Province, conducted in Johannesburg’s Southern Metropolitan Local Council (SMLC) region between 1997 and 2000. In that first survey women emerged as the overwhelming victims of sexual violence in the region. The findings of the national survey suggest that in the intervening four years, young women and girls have adapted to the perpetual threat of violence by becoming increasingly violent themselves.

Connections between sexual violence and HIV /AIDS and their impact on young people’s attitudes also emerged in a new light: one third of learners interviewed believed they were HIV-positive; learners who had been raped were more likely to believe this, and more likely to say they would deliberately infect somebody else.

Now the subject of an article published by the British Medical Journal, this study gives voice to young people whose views and experiences have become the basis of a countrywide communication effort to prevent sexual violence. In this second stage of the four-phase survey, CIET has developed tools to work with in- and out-of-school youth, and has launched a pioneering education project in all nine of South Africa’s provinces. At the same time, CIET is reaching radio audiences and training educators, social workers and NGOs to use these evidence-based resources. The packet of CD/audio with accompanying workbooks and lesson plans is called Beyond Victims and Villains.

An executive report on the survey, a description of the extensive efforts to socialise the evidence derived from it and a description of the workbooks developed to accompany the audio episodes used in school and out-of-school activities are all available from the library.

In 2006 an article, based in part on the results of this survey, entitled “Prevention for those who have freedom of choice – or among the choice-disabled: confronting equity in the AIDS epidemic” was published in AIDS Research and Therapy 2006, 3:23. Another article on young male victims of sexual violence appeared in 2008 in the International Journal for Equity in Health