An evaluation of the perceptions of high school teenagers regarding sexual health promotion programmes in Whittlesea, Eastern Cape, South Africa : a qualitative study
Introduction Health problems emanating from sexual behaviour include HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections among adolescents are considered high in South Africa. Also, the burden of unplanned pregnancies has wider implications in society. These problems occur in spite of a number of different sexual health promotion programmes. The aim of the study was to view the perception of high school teenagers to sexual health promotions programmes as well as their response to these programmes. The objectives of the study were: 1. To explore the perceptions of local teenagers regarding the content and materials used in local health promotion programmes 2. To explore the perceptions of local teenagers regarding the communication strategies and style used in local health promotion programmes 3. To explore the perceptions of local teenagers regarding the impact of local health promotion programmes on their behaviour Method This was a qualitative study. The study population was high school teenagers from the Whittlesea townships in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Fourteen purposefully selected teenagers from the seven high schools were individually interviewed. Analysis was done using the framework method. Results The study showed that the content of sexual health promotion programmes to which high school teenagers in Whittlesea were exposed to composed of sexual health education and the building of life skills. Perception of the messages in these contents was influenced by lack of communication on sexual matters within individual families and religious beliefs of participants. The programmes were considered to be practical and helpful. Methods that involved teenagers’ participation or interaction were generally preferred and the communication style was perceived as facilitating behavioural/attitudinal change. Conclusion In order for adolescent sexual health promotion programmes to be effective, they should employ methods that involve participation and human interaction. The involvement of parents, role models, religious groups and community services in sexual health promotion could be helpful in promoting sexual health education and lifestyle change amongst teenagers.