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The objective was to assess AIDS awareness and sexual behaviour in a rural South African community with a high HIV prevalence. One hundred clinic attenders underwent a structured interview using a standard questionnaire. Although the 64 female and 36 male patients, mean age 22 (range 13-45), had good knowledge of AIDS-related issues, only 50 perceived HIV/AIDS as a common problem. Of the 75 patients who were sexually active only 30 (40%) used condoms (men 16; 55% vs women 14; 30%, P=0.033) despite being better informed about the protective effect of condoms (active 61; 81% vs abstinent 14; 56%, P=0.011). More men than women admitted to multiple sexual partners (17; 47% vs 7; 11%, P < 0.0001). In conclusion, despite a high level of awareness of HIV/AIDS issues, self-perceived risk was low, condom use was infrequent and especially men continued to have multiple sexual partners. Awareness has yet to translate into reduction of risk behaviour.