HIV/AIDS remains a significant global public health challenge and in the South African context
is a generalised epidemic affecting all sectors of society. One of the subpopulations known
to engage in HIV risk behaviours is the university student population. Living with HIV/AIDS in
a higher education institution could influence quality of life and life satisfaction negatively
affecting the ability of students to complete their studies.
The aim of this study was to investigate factors that are associated with life satisfaction among
higher education students who are living with HIV. The objectives investigated to achieve the
aim are as follows:
? To determine the prevalence of life satisfaction in the general student population
? To determine the prevalence of life satisfaction among HIV positive students
? To explore the factors associated with life satisfaction among HIV positive students
This was a secondary data analysis of data collected during the Higher Education HIV/AIDS
Programme (HEAIDS) survey conducted during the second term of 2008 and the first term of
2009 among students in 22 South African higher education institutions (HEIs). The total
number of participants during the survey was N=17,062. The Higher Education Management
and Information System (HEMIS) database 2006 was used to create a sampling frame.
The present study utilised only the student component of the original study to investigate the
prevalence of self?reported life satisfaction among the general student population as well as
prevalence of self?reported life satisfaction among students who are infected with HIV.
Universities were categorised into large, medium, and small categories based on the numbers
of staff and students so as to allocate sample sizes among the universities. Each HEI
population was stratified by campus and faculty/class and then clusters of students were selected for the study using standard randomisation techniques. Self?administered
questionnaires were used to obtain demographic, socioeconomic, education?related data,
behavioural and psychological characteristics such as self?esteem, optimism and life
Life satisfaction was assessed using a single?item measure within the questionnaire. The
questionnaire was also used to obtain information on demographic, socioeconomic,
behavioural, and other life satisfaction related factors. The HIV status of participants was
determined by laboratory testing of dry blood spots (DBS) obtained using standard
methodology. Data were analysed using chi?square and multiple?variable adjusted logistic
Of the study population, 52.5% were females. The overall prevalence of HIV among all
students was 3.1% (n=499). Overall, 79.54% (n=12784) of the students reported life
satisfaction. Reported life satisfaction was higher among HIV negative than among HIVpositive
students with 79.5% and 67.6% respectively; p<0.001. Among the HIV?positive
student population, reported life satisfaction was less frequent among students who were
not married than among married students (65.7% versus 86.4%; p=0.009). The older the
students, the more likely they were to report satisfaction with life with 61.18%, 75.39%, and
79.46% for age categories 18?24 years, 25?34 years, and 35 years and older respectively.
Compared to African black students, students from other race groups were less likely to
report satisfaction with life (aOR: 0.04; 95% CI: 0.04?0.60).
This study s findings suggest that the majority of students in HEIs in South Africa are satisfied
with their life. However, the study also revealed that there is a need to promote life skills and
psychological support among higher education institution students prioritising those who are
living with HIV/AIDS especially those in the younger age?group.