Marriage rates in South Africa have dropped to approximately 37% in recent years. This is particularly marked in the Black African population compared to other race groups. In tandem, the prevalence of HIV in this country has risen to 12.7%, with the highest prevalence among Black Africans. However, no data associates marriage decline with high HIV prevalence. We bridge this gap in knowledge by investigating young students' aspirations to marry in the context of high national HIV rates. A cross-sectional study was conducted among university students (n = 384) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, between October and November 2014. Quantitative data were collected through self-administered questionnaires. Data was analysed by Likert scale analysis, Chi square test, Fisher's exact test, multivariate regression modelling and calculation of odds ratios. Majority of respondents (85.8%, n = 331) indicated that they wished to get married but more than half (53%, n = 205, p < 0.001) indicated that the high prevalence of HIV has had a negative impact on their marriage aspirations. Students indicated that considering a partner's HIV status prior to marriage was important (p < 0.001), marriage did not offer protection from HIV (p < 0.001), and testing for HIV prior to marriage was imperative (p < 0.001). Considering a partner's HIV status before marriage is important and associated with increased odds (OR = 5.62, 95%CI: 1.57-20.05) of wanting to get married. There was a significant relationship between respondents wanting to get married and the future marriage partner being HIV negative (p = 0.003). Furthermore, the HIV epidemic has decreased the odds of wanting to get married (OR = 0.21; 95%CI: 0.08-0.58). We conclude that while the majority of young students have marriage aspirations, the high prevalence of HIV has resulted in a negative perception of marriage. Although HIV testing prior to marriage is considered important, students recognize that they may not be protected from infection during marriage.