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A new baseline study to determine reproductive
knowledge among young refugees in South Africa's most populous province shows that although there is a general awareness about HIV/AIDS, specific
knowledge about how the disease is transmitted and prevention strategies is "alarmingly low".

The study was conducted by the Centre for the Study of Violence and
Reconciliation (CSVR) on behalf of UNHCR among refugees aged 10-24 in
Gauteng Province. According to the findings, about 89 percent of the total
sample had "reportedly" heard about AIDS. Among the 10-14 year olds, the
figure was 68 percent, 91 percent among 15-19 year olds and 92 percent of
20-24 year olds. "Of concern is the number of respondents aged 10 to 14 who
reportedly have not heard of AIDS (32 percent)," said the report.
"Significantly, 48 percent ... of all Somalis reportedly have not heard of

It added that in response to the question "do you worry that you could get
AIDS?", 40 percent of 20-24 year olds, and 30 percent of 15-19 year olds
said "they do not worry" about getting AIDS. Most people cited unprotected
sex or sex with many partners as the principal causes of contracting

According to the study, violence against women was "widely accepted" by both
male and female refugees and was often seen as an "expression of love, or as
a necessary means of disciplining a woman". One in 10 of those interviewed
reported that they had been raped. "One in five respondents (male and
female) believe that is a woman's fault if she is raped. Fear of social
stigma, rejection and ridicule contribute to the creation of a context in
which a significant minority (17 percent) of refugees believes that rape
should be kept quiet," said the report.

The study noted that there was a "marked discrepancy" between known
contraceptive methods and actual usage. The male condom was the best-known
method, said the report, and yet had a 37 percent and 44 percent reported
usage among the 15-19 and 20-24 age groups respectively. "Forty percent of
respondents (males and females) aged 15-24 years say that it is not
acceptable for a woman to ask her partner to use a condom," noted the
report. "Women express discomfort at requesting condom use, as this is
reportedly seen as a challenge to 'male power or authority' or as an
indication of infidelity in the relationship."

One in three women interviewed said they relied on "natural or traditional
methods" such as the rhythm or calendar method. "Knowledge about existing
family planning services is low. Less than half the respondents reportedly
knew where the nearest family clinic is," said the report.

The CSVR website: