While it is assumed that HIV testing could contribute to the reduction of HIV infection rates, little if any research exists regarding whether HIV testing could inadvertently also contribute to the spread of HIV. The study explored whether the experience of testing HIV negative could result in people developing false beliefs about their capability of preventing HIV infection. The study investigated HIV testing and related beliefs among 347 students (18 to 21 years) enrolled at the University of Botswana. Analyses explored whether students who had tested for HIV infection differed in their HIV-related beliefs from students who had never gone for an HIV test. Compared to their counterparts, students who went for an HIV test were more likely to believe that they could trust their dating partner enough not to use a condom and that their dating partner was HIV negative too, even when their partner had not gone for an HIV test; and they were less likely to fear that they could contract HIV from a sexual relationship. The results indicate that the experience of having received an HIV negative test result made students believe that they were in control of HIV, which made them more vulnerable to HIV infection.
Key words: Adolescence, Botswana, cognitive development, dating, distorted beliefs, HIV/AIDS, HIV testing, sexual risk behaviour, self-deception, trust in relationships.
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