Adolescent female school dropouts who use drugs and engage in risky sex: effects of a brief pilot intervention in Cape Town, South Africa


Focus Areas: Health & Wellness Educating Girls & Women

Female adolescents from socioeconomically underserved communities in Cape Town, South Africa, who have dropped out of school, use substances, and engage in risky sex behaviour are at risk of HIV. Tailored gender-focused HIV behavioural interventions for this key population are needed to mitigate these risk factors. A pilot trial of a woman-focused risk-reduction intervention for adolescents was conducted (N = 100), with a one-month follow-up appointment. Participants in the intervention group attended two group workshops. Data were examined for significant differences within and between the groups. At baseline, 94% of participants tested positive for cannabis, 17% were HIV-positive and 11% were pregnant. Ninety-two participants returned for 1-month follow-up. At follow-up, the proportion who tested positive for cannabis use decreased significantly in both the intervention (p = 0.07) and control groups (p = 0.04). Impaired sex with any partner (p = 0.02), or with main partner (p = 0.06) decreased among the intervention group. Impaired sex with a main partner was less likely in the intervention group (p = 0.07) in the regression model. In conclusion, findings indicate a need for HIV prevention interventions among out-of-school female adolescents. Intervention acceptability was high, and there were some decreases in sexual risk behaviour among intervention participants which is promising. Future intervention research with this key population involving larger sample sizes and longer follow-up periods will help to determine intervention efficacy.

Carney, T., F. A. Browne, B. Myers, T. L. Kline, B. Howard and W. M. Wechsberg (2019). "Adolescent female school dropouts who use drugs and engage in risky sex: effects of a brief pilot intervention in Cape Town, South Africa." AIDS Care 31(1): 77-84.


Wendee Wechsberg

“We must listen to the communities, the local people, to understand culturally what is going to fit and what is going to be the language of the research, and not just say we know what to do here.”

Felicia Browne

"I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work on applied, gender-focused projects in the community in which I grew up, in hopes of having an impact on HIV, STIs and other health outcomes among African-American adolescent girls and young women."