Of “Bad Behaviour” and “Dangerous Sex”: Moral Responses to the Threat of HIV/AIDS among Children and Youth in Rural Burundi

Marie Kolling, Trine Schächter Rasmussen , Bjarke Oxlund

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Burundi has been tormented by armed conflict for decades. In the midst of reconstructing rural communities, young people are concerned with their future and the need to avoid “bad behaviours” in order to have a better future. This article is based on findings from an interview-based survey conducted among nine to 18 year-old boys and girls who live in rural Burundi and participated in an HIV prevention and empowerment project run by an international NGO. The findings show how the children and young people perceive sexual relations and the threat of HIV/AIDS, and how they attempt to deal with these by assuming a moral high ground and becoming role models in their community. The article argues that the research participants draw on a binary moral discourse of good and bad behaviour in which sex is dangerous and should be avoided. From their accounts, it is clear that the message they have adopted of sexual abstinence demands a continuous effort on their part to avoid a whole range of temptations and pressures in their daily lives. Moreover, the findings presented in the article reveal that the threat of HIV/ AIDS is just one among many concerns. In the local context, burning issues pertaining to sex, including issues of sexual assault, transactional sexual relations, early pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies, loomed large and were the primary concern of young people. The article reaches the conclusion that the HIV prevention project did not address these crucial issues, and that the abstinence message the participants appropriated is not a sufficient measure to combat the rising HIV prevalence among youth in rural Burundi.
TidsskriftMOJ Public Health
Udgave nummer4
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - 31. mar. 2017

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