the danger at any given level of sexual activity is greater where HIV is more prevalent (Serwadda et al., 1992).

Perceived Risk

Surprisingly, there does not seem to be a strong correlation between perceived risk and risk behavior. People who report risk behavior do not seen to feel more threatened by HIV than people who do not, and in the WHO/GPA data, no relationship between the two appears when the effects of other factors are simultaneously controlled. Conversely, Lindan et al. (1991) report that those who perceive themselves to be at risk of AIDS (62 percent of them through their partner's sexual behavior rather than their own) are actually no more likely to be seropositive than those who feel less threatened. It does, however, emerge from that study that women who feel powerless to prevent HIV/AIDS are more likely to be infected.

The WHO/GPA data suggest that risk behavior is itself positively correlated with AIDS awareness and knowledge of its lethality and sexual transmission routes. While this finding may dim hopes that knowledge will lead to behavior change, the relationship may be spuriously caused by the fact that formal schooling leads simultaneously to better AIDS awareness and a socioeconomic status that makes it easier to acquire more partners.


In the WHO/GPA surveys, risk behavior is associated with age. In some African societies, for example, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, and Kenya, over half of all those aged 15 to 19 are already sexually experienced (Caraël, 1995). In contrast, in other societies such as Burundi, around 90 percent of those aged 15 to 19 are still virgins (Caraël, 1995). However, by age 20, the level of sexual experience is close to 90 percent among most of the populations studied in the WHO/GPA surveys. Never-married men aged 15 to 19 reported that in the last 12 months they had had between 1.6 and 2.5 partners; women in the same age range reported between 1.0 and 1.9 partners.

Condom use for sexually experienced men aged 20 to 24 varies from under 20 percent in Lesotho, Tanzania, and Togo to over 50 percent in Guinea-Bissau and Lusaka, Zambia (Mehryar, 1995). Reported condom use for women in this age range was significantly lower. Only in Lusaka, Zambia, did more than 20 percent of sexually experienced women in this age range report ever using a condom, and in Central African Republic, Togo, and Lesotho, fewer than 10 percent of women in this age range reported ever having used a condom (Mehryar, 1995).

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