Social and structural vulnerability as a barrier in HIV and/or AIDS communication campaigns: perceptions of undergraduate students at a South African tertiary institution
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The multicultural nature of a higher academic institution comprising students from different backgrounds can either negatively or positively influence student behaviour. Students might engage in high-risk practices, which in turn can make them vulnerable to HIV infection. Higher academic institutions are then tasked with finding strategies that can help to reduce this risk and vulnerability to HIV and/or AIDS. However, there are many issues and barriers, both from the institution and students, which can impede the success of any communication strategy. The University of the Free State’s main campus was selected for this study. A sample of 402 students from a total of 17 591 undergraduate students participated in the study. A structured questionnaire was randomly distributed to the undergraduate students. The sample was compiled across all faculties, as well as on campus and off campus. A transact walk on campus with an observation checklist was also used for triangulation purposes. The observation checklist helped to collect data on the visibility of male and female condoms in toilet facilities, and HIV and/or AIDS information on noticeboards, bins, stationery, billboards, etc. The main finding indicated that students were not knowledgeable about HIV and/or AIDS campaigns rolled out on campus. To support this, the observational transact walk results indicated that there were no visible campaigns on campus. Also, problems with existing communication and organisational barriers were found not only with the students but also with the implementation office. This study recommends that the university needs to engage with the students by identifying the root cause of their vulnerability. The university should explore and make use of all the available resources for a successful intervention, thereby building students’ resilience in preventing HIV infection.