Background: Young people have aspirations and will use whatever means to achieve them. Little has been done to understand how young people''s aspirations are key in determining the sexual decision-making. This paper set out to explore aspirations of young people and the strategies they used to meet them and how that enhanced or reduced their risk for HIV.
Methods: This study employed ethnographic research design involving 18 participatory focus group discussions and 43 in-depth interviews with girls and boys in-and-out-of-school, adult men and women within the study sites. Fieldwork was undertaken in rural and urban Tanzania in 2016. Participants were sampled purposively and by snowball sampling techniques. Thematic analysis was conducted with the aid of NVIVO 10 software.
Results: Girls mentioned their aspirations as: getting education; having a job; having nice clothes; an attractive body; a good life; good behaviour that is praised by everyone; having someone to take care of their needs; getting married and having children. Men were aware of the aspirations and desires of adolescent girls and mentioned these as: status among peers; trendy things such as smartphones, clothes; and marriage. Young men mentioned that a popular girl was one who had several pairs of clothes and was always in nice clothes; and a smart one at school. Young men talked about their aspirations as: performing well at school and having many friends and has behaviour that is acceptable among peers. Sex was one of the ways girls met their material and non-material aspirations. For example, sexual relationships with adults in power fulfilled some of their non-material aspirations (e.g. education) as well as material ones (trendy clothes mobile phones). Girls aspired for young men with certain characteristics (attractive, hardworking, smart at school) to help them meet some of their long-term aspirations such as marriage and passing examination at school.
Conclusions: The aspirations of young women were important in determining their sexual decision making and ultimately risk for HIV. There is need for interventions to capitalize on these aspirations by addressing them in interventions as they are critical for their sexual decision making, sustainable development and achievement of future goals.