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South Africa’s youth are switched on to safe sex behaviour!

Young Africa Live Sex Opinion Poll Results Announced!

Mzansi’s youth are switched on to safe sex behaviour, are more than up for finding love on the internet and yet still have a strong conservative streak influencing their beliefs.

These are just some of the results of Young Africa Live’s Youth Sex Poll, which was run on the mobile platform from December 1st to 31st.  

Now in its third year, the youth opinion poll is an important part of the mobile platform’s annual engagement with its community and part of what informs the strategy for future discussion topics and features.
“While not a scientific survey, the opinion poll provides a powerful snapshot into important aspects of sexual knowledge and behaviour in the lives of YAL’s users, a not inconsequential group of young South Africans,” says Gustav Praekelt, Founder of Praekelt Foundation.

Launched by Praekelt Foundation in 2009 as a place for entertaining and educating young people around love, sex and relationships in the time of HIV/AIDS, YAL now has over 1.8 million users who access the platform to talk to each other and gain both expert input and peer support. YAL has been running for five years with the support of Vodacom Foundation and USAID.

A reflection of YAL’s ongoing impact amongst South Africa’s youth is the 90% growth in unique responses to the questions that made up the 2013 YAL Sex Opinion Poll. This grew from 170,000 in 2012 to 322,857 in 2013, all coming from 17,713 unique participants with each question generating on average 5,000 responses.

The majority of respondents were female (68.9%) with most falling into the 19 to 24 (38.4%) and then the 25-35 (30.4%) age groups.  A large portion of the respondents live in townships (37.5%), followed by rural areas (29.8%) and then cities (17.8%) and small towns (14.8%).

An overwhelming result of the 2013 YAL Sex Opinion Poll is the enlightenment around safe sex behaviour (something that is frequently borne out by ad hoc user polls hosted on the platform throughout the year).

In response to a question about concurrent multiple sexual partners, 65.3% said they had a single, long-term partner or were abstaining from sex while 25% said they were engaged in multiple concurrent sexual relationships but always used a condom. This understanding of the importance of condoms in safeguarding their sexual and individual health is also clear in the 39.9% of respondents who said they always use a condom compared to the 11.9% who said they never do, as well as the 85.7% respondents who believe that it is both a man and a woman’s responsibility to carry condoms.

This year’s opinion poll also revealed YAL’s users as cautious about their sexual partners with the majority by far (45.2%) saying they had only had between 1 and 5 partners in their lifetime.  The users also showed a maturity of understanding around HIV/AIDS with a huge number (89.4%) describing the disease not as a death sentence, but that you can still live a long and healthy life despite being infected. This is reinforced by the significant majority (59.8%) who said that they would use both an ARV programme and prayer if faced with an HIV positive status. 

The importance of digital platforms in increasing the knowledge and understanding of sex and its related issues is supported by the YAL Sex Opinion Poll this year. In response to a question about where users get advice and questions answered about sex the majority (23.6%) said YAL itself, with another 13.2% turning to the internet for this information.  Interestingly siblings (12.3%) and not parents/guardians (8.7%) play more of a role here. 

With this embrace of digital platforms, it’s not surprising then that a great number of YAL’s users (56.1%) believe that true love can be found on the internet. A growing streak of liberation engendered by easier access to information is also confirmed by the respondents’ firm conviction that a hospital circumcision (69.7%) is preferable to a traditional one (20.6%) and that being gay should most definitely not be a crime (83.1%).

However a strong conservative underpinning is also reflected in several areas of the YAL Sex Opinion Poll, primarily around abortion (82% agreed with the statement that it is murder) and some areas of gender equality.  For instance while 36.9% believe that rape is an outcome of men physically dominating others, 25% still believe it to be because women wear clothes that are too revealing. Religion remains a significant influencer in young people’s lives with 35.9% of YAL Sex Opinion Poll respondents stating they would rely on God alone “to save you from HIV”.

There is also a red flag emanating from questions around teacher-learner relationships with 39.5% of YAL respondents believing that the sexual exploitation of learners by their teachers is a huge problem and just 16.4% saying they had never heard of any instances. It is concerning to note that 66.5% of respondents believe that this abuse is a two-way street and not an abuse of power (33.5%).

The role of poverty and lack of access within YAL’s user community raises its head with overwhelming response to the question “would you rather have sex or money” – 83.9% selected money with just 16.1% choosing sex.

“The YAL Sex Opinion Poll is an important tool for us to shape the content and discussions that we will be creating for the platform during the coming year.  Our users input is at the heart of YAL,” says Pippa Yeats, Praekelt Foundation’s strategist. 

“However we believe the YAL Sex Opinion Poll also provides real and useful insight for a broader community, into what YAL South Africans are doing, what they believe, and what they want when it comes to sex and relationships.”

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