Background: The Republic of Malawi is among the most poverty struck countries in the world. It also has the dubious honour of being one of the world nations most heavily hit by the AIDS epidemic. In this setting sexual health becomes a subject of paramount importance. A lot of research has been done focusing on different aspects of the epidemic. Our research is based on data obtained from a large study in Lungwena. Our objective was to examine if and why the studied population would be at risk of HIV by studying certain factors.
Method: Data was taken from the large study, and analysed. Some of the factors where we had hypothesised a link were crosstabulated in SPSS, and certain links were tested for statistical significans. These factors included education level, the use of prostitutes, knowledge of STI’s and condom use to mention a few. The questioner used is a standard type also used by the Demographic and Health Survey. Selection was conducted by random selection and there was informed consent. Potential flaws include data quality, a low number of participants on certain analysed questions, and no questions concerning sexual rituals that may influence data.
Results: The study documents that the population in question has an increased risk of HIV due to a number of risk factors, including risky sexual behaviour like multiple partners, low condom usage and the relatively frequent use of prostitutes. The risk increased because of the incidence of HIV being as high as 1 in 5. Education was found to increase knowledge of where to get a condom, increase the age of sexual debute, and is associated with a positive attitude towards couples using contraceptives to avoid pregnancy among girls. The same associations were not found among the opposite sex, and education did not influence the number of sexual partners or the purchase of sex. Knowledge of STI’s and AIDS is positively correlated with approval of contraceptive use among couples to avoid pregnancy among adolescents and among adult men. Sexual debut after the age of 16 is associated with increased condom usage among boys.
Conclusions: The prevalence of different risk factors for the contraction of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections is too high in Lungwena, given the increased risk of infection compared to western countries. Barrier methods are not among the most popular contraceptives, and are used to infrequently. Education is an important tool against the spread of AIDS, especially in girls. Knowledge of STI’s in itself is of limited value, but it does seem to shape values. More comprehensive, multifaceted sexual health programs need to be implemented if the goal is to elicit change in sexual behaviour.