Behaviours That Put Female Youth at Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Gerehu, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
The HIV and AIDS epidemic in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is growing at an alarming rate according to recent statistics and is increasingly affecting the young people. The majority of all known HIV cases are in young people below the age of 35 years. A crucial task remains for PNG to provide protection and safety for young people (who comprise more than 50% of the country's 5.2 million people) from the risk of sexual infections, harm and death. Whilst risk of infections are inevitably real and alive in local communities and seriously challenging youth, unfortunately, this group, poorly educated, unemployed, unheard and unsupported by service providers, disempowered and financially and socially vulnerable stand the highest risk of been affected by HIV/AIDS and STIs. The main aim of this study was to examine sexual behaviours and practices of female youth including their exposure to sexual violence and the protection strategies used. Amongst other things, this study also assessed how much female youth know and understand about HIV/AIDS and STIs including access to HIV and sexual health services. A standard questionnaire was completed through faceto-face interviews with 63 out-of-school and unemployed1 female youth (age 15-24) in the suburb of Gerehu in Port Moresby, PNG. The research identified some unsafe behaviours and vulnerable factors that are contributing to increase risk of HIV and STI for female youth in Gerehu. Female Youth women are inadequately educated about sex, sexual relationships, causes and nature of sexual infections, they own risks and sexual behavioural practices, condom negotiation skills, sexual coercion, stigma related risk, access to sexual treatment and services and how competing gender and socio-cultural factors create, perpetuate and increase risk of infection for them. Unless female youth adequately know these factors they are not able to avoid risk and protect themselves from HIV and STIs.