HIV/AIDS and Adolescents:Knowledge, Attitude and Practice in secondary school Adolescents in Lusaka

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Mwinga, Kasonde G
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The HIV/AIDS pandemic has markedly increased the morbidity and mortality of people worldwide. In Zambia the number of cases of HIV/AIDS have been rapidly increasing, the main mode of transmission being heterosexual.In the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of adolescents worldwide infected with HIV. Adolescents and young adults comprise one of the fastest growing categories of AIDS cases. Half of the people with HIV worldwide are said to have been infected between the ages of 15 and 24 years. In Zambia the rates of newly acquired HIV infection are highest in the 15 to 24 year olds. Many adolescents in Zambia engage in HIV risk behaviour. Prevention of HIV/AIDS among adolescents has thus become an important public health priority. School based HIV prevention strategies have been effective in decreasing HIV risk behaviours among adolescents.In this light, a cross sectional study to evaluate the knowledge, attitude and practice of secondary school adolescents was conducted. The performance of Anti-AIDS clubs was also discussed. Data was collected using a self administered questionnaire, focus group discussions and open interviews.Quantitative data was stored and analysed using EPI INFO statistical software.From the study results, overall level of knowledge on HIV and its transmission is good. Misconceptions about HIV/AIDS transmission exist. Negative attitudes towards people with HIV/AIDS are relatively low. A significant percentage of the adolescents are sexually active and the mean age at sexual debut is 13 years. Majority of sexually active adolescents had multiple partners in the previous year. Condom use is inadequate and inconsistent. Females seemed less inclined to discuss their involvement in sexual activity than males. The chief sources of HIV/AIDS information is the media, friends and Anti-AIDS clubs. Most adolescents communicate about HIV prevention mainly with friends/peers. Anti-AIDS club membership is low and self reported benefit from club activities is poor.From the study findings it would be necessary to develop peer-led HIV education programs in schools. Improved dialogue and improved health workers input in health education is needed. HIV education should be supplemented with sustainable behavioural change strategies. Cultarally sensitive and sex specific techniques should be used to collect data on sensitive issues like sexual behaviour among adolescents. Studies to critically evaluate the impact of the present anti-AIDS strategies among adolescents should be designed.
HIV/AIDS , Adolescents