Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

High School Students in Trinidad: Views on HIV/AIDS and Sexual Activity

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

High School Students in Trinidad: Views on HIV/AIDS and Sexual Activity

Article excerpt

Abstract

In this qualitative exploratory study, we explored the views of high school students on how the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Trinidad had influenced their personal experiences of engaging or not engaging in sexual activities and their knowledge about the prevention and spread of HIV/AIDS. We conducted face-to-face interviews with 46 students (23 males and 23 females) who ranged in age from 15 to 19. Four major themes emerged: (a) feelings of how HIV/AIDS affected their lives, (b) deciding to abstain from sexual activity, (c) protecting self from HIV/AIDS, and (d) reasons for engaging in sexual activities. Adolescence is a high-risk time for HIV transfer by sexual exploration and experimentation. In the present study 33% of females and 24% of males indicated that they were sexually active. Two-thirds of the males but only one-third of the females reported using condoms all the time. Of the 12 sexually active students who did not use condoms all the time, five had never been tested for HIV/AIDS, which put them at risk for being infected with the HIV virus or other diseases such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and human papilloma virus (HPV) that can be spread to another person during sexual activity.

Keywords: youth at-risk, Trinidad, HIV/AIDS, sexual activity, students, high school

1. Introduction

In 2014, UNAIDS Gap Report indicated that 5% of people with HIV in the Caribbean region lived in the twin island state of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. By the end of 2010, an estimated 23 thousand persons were living with HIV/AIDS in Trinidad giving a prevalence rate of 1.5% (Office of the Prime Minister, 2010). Females comprised 74% in the 15-24 year age group. The most at risk populations for HIV/AIDS in Trinidad are men who have sex with men, sex workers, substance abusers, and youth who engage in unprotected sex (Office of the Prime Minister, 2010). In Trinidad, the incidence of HIV/AIDS has been highest among persons aged 15-49 (National AIDS Coordinating Committee [NACC], 2009). Stigma and discrimination against people living with the disease, multiple sex partnering, and myths and misinformation surrounding key issues, such as condom use, have contributed to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Trinidad (UNAIDS, 2014).

Adolescence is a high-risk time for HIV transfer if sexual exploration and experimentation occurs (Selikow, Ahmed, Fisher, Matthews, & Mukoma, 2009). Early initiation of sexual activity has a linkage to HIV/AIDS infection because young adolescents have little knowledge of HIV prevention and condom use (Bongaarts, 2007). The HIV/AIDS virus exposes persons to opportunistic infections by first undermining then eradicating the body' s immune system eventually leading to death without treatment. Youth who engage in unprotected sex have been identified as an at risk population in Trinidad (Office of the Prime Minister, 2010). However, little research exists on their views and perceptions of how HIV/AIDS has affected their sexual activity. The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore the views of high school students on how the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Trinidad had influenced their personal experiences of engaging or not engaging in sexual activities and their knowledge about the prevention and spread of HIV/AIDS.

2. Method

We recruited participants who volunteered from four schools in Trinidad: two were faith-based, one public, and one private. We conducted face-to-face structured interviews with open-ended questions with 46 students who ranged from 15 to 19 years of age. Twenty-three participants were female and 23 participants were male. Students under 18 were only able to participate if they received parental consent along with giving their own consent. Although students in some cases appeared willing, obtaining consent from their parents was not forthcoming. The necessary permissions to conduct the study were obtained from University of Phoenix' s Institutional Review Board, Ministry of Education, Trinidad and Tobago, and the participating schools. …

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