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Khat use among HIV voluntary counselling and testing centre clients in Ethiopia

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Khat (Catha edulis, a natural stimulant), has been used in Ethiopia for centuries. Over the past few decades, however, its use has dramatically increased, with recent research linking khat use to HIV status. Using qualitative methods, we explored the individual and micro-environmental characteristics of khat use and the social and physical contexts influencing type, acceptability and consequences of khat use. Among khat chewers attending an HIV voluntary counselling and testing centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we found that chewing typically starts at an early age (15–18 years). The majority of users are young (aged 18–35) and chew for pleasure, primarily in social settings. Over 25 types of khat, with varying effects were reported. Approximately half of the participants perceived khat to enhance sexual desire, while the rest claimed the effect on sexual desire to be the opposite. Alcohol use among chewers was high. Our findings suggest the need for culturally appropriate interventions that highlight the factors associated with khat use and the potential interplay between khat, alcohol and risky sexual behaviour.
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Keywords: Ethiopia; alcohol; khat; qualitative methods; sexual risk

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Disease Control, Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases,London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK 2: Department of Epidemiology, Infectious Diseases,Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA 3: The Ethiopian Public Health Association, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Publication date: November 1, 2012

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