Barriers and Mythical Practices of Teenagers Regarding the Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections in Rural Areas of Limpopo Province, South Africa

Healthcare (Basel). 2024 Jan 30;12(3):355. doi: 10.3390/healthcare12030355.


Sexually transmitted infections in South Africa are increasing at alarming rates. This study's setting is no. 5, with the highest STI, pregnancy, and HIV statistics in Limpopo province among 13- to 19-year-old teenagers. This study explored preventative measures against STIs practiced by teenagers in rural areas of Limpopo province, South Africa. This study was conducted at a selected rural-based clinic using an exploratory descriptive qualitative research approach. Unstructured in-depth face-to-face interviews were used to collect data from sixteen conveniently sampled teenagers aged 13-19, consisting of 13 females and 3 males, who came to Manavhela Clinic for youth-friendly services in August/September 2022. Open-coding analysis was used to identify themes and sub-themes. Measures to ensure trustworthiness were ensured. Ethical clearance (FSH/21/PH/22/2211) was obtained, and ethics principles were observed throughout this study. Two themes emerged from data analysis: STI preventive measures practiced by teenagers and factors influencing the choice of STI preventive measures practiced by teenagers. Only a few participants aged 13 and 14 years of age practiced abstinence and condom use. Most participants were sexually active and used mythical mixtures made from boiling aloe or morula tree (which they drank before and after sex), applied plain yogurt on the vagina once a week, or practiced vaginal steaming. Participants cited patriarchy, lack of sex education in rural schools, long distances to clinics, and desire to taste sex as reasons for adopting the practiced preventive measures. Risky sexual behavior among 13- to 19-year-old teenagers is still rife in rural areas. Rural clinics in Limpopo province should intensify STI school health education and youth-friendly services programs to raise awareness and improve accessibility to condoms.

Keywords: Limpopo; STIs; barriers; measures; mythical; practices; prevention; rural; teenagers; villages.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.