Perceptions of South African emerging adult FET college students on sexual practices in relation to religion.

17 Aug 2017

HIV and AIDS are rapidly spreading amongst the world's 15- to 24-year age group, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite vigorous government interventions and campaigns, 10 % of South African youth in the age cohort 15-24 are infected with HIV and AIDS. Furthermore, for the first time in history the world has its largest number of individuals under the age of 30 years. Researchers are desperately seeking a solution and have found religion to play an important role in moderating risky sexual behaviour amongst youth. This exploratory qualitative study aims to increase our understanding of emerging adult Further Education and Training (FET) students' perceptions of the role of religion and religious beliefs in their sexual decision-making and practices. The qualitative data emerged from five focus group discussions, each consisting of 12 heterosexual emerging adult FET college students aged 18-24 years, selected using random sampling. Participants were representative of all the major South African racial groups (Blacks, Whites, Coloured and Indians) as well as different religious and cultural groupings. Secularisation theory was used as a theoretical framework for this study. These focus group discussions revealed the following themes: Theme 1-religious institutions need to embrace change in order to become effective social agents of change. Theme 2-a need for open discussion and communication concerning current issues related to young people's sexual health (by religious institutions/religious leaders). Theme 3-perceptions of religion's negative sanctions towards sexual behaviour. Theme 4-religious leaders' indifference and abdication of responsibility to the problems that youth face. Theme 5-religion and condom-related beliefs. Theme 6-perceptions of religious leaders as role models. Theme 7-emerging adults general concern for the moral decay of society. Theme 8-perceptions of whether religion has an influence on young people's sexual decision-making and practices.