Knowledge,Attitudes and Sexual Behavioural Practices Among the Hearing Impaired Pupils in Zambia in the Era of HIV/AIDS: The case of Magwero School for the Deaf in Eastern Province of Zambia

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Muleya, Redges Munsaka
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This study was carried out to investigate the HIV and AIDS-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and sexual behaviors of hearing impaired students at Magwero School for the deaf in eastern province. The level of HIV prevalence in Zambia is at 16 percent for the youth and the young people are being disproportionately affected. The study was targeting the hearing impaired adolescents, knowledge about STDs and HIV transmission and prevention. Another concern was about the condom use and how HIV and AIDS- related attitudes and beliefs could be influencing the sexual behaviors of the deaf teenagers. Relevant local, regional and international HIV and AIDS literature was reviewed. Data for the study was collected through both quantitative and qualitative approaches. A detailed questionnaire was administered to 75 teenage students selected from Magwero School for the deaf. Three Focus Group Discussions (FGD) were also conducted to gain deeper insights into issues not sufficiently covered by the questionnaire. Data was captured in Statistical Package for the social sciences (SPSS) computer programme and frequencies and cross tabulation done for analysis. The study reveals that the majority of the deaf pupils at Magwero School for the deaf, in secondary school, are kept by their own parents some of them single while others are kept by their guardians who ranged from uncles, aunties and grandparents. The study alsorevealed that most of the respondents where in boarding while others are day scholars.The awareness about HIV and AIDS was almost universal with almost 100% of the respondents having the knowledge on how AIDS is transmitted from one person to another and how they can protect themselves from infection. On STDs, the male participants had comparatively better knowledge on the names and symptoms of various STDs. The majority of the respondents believed the use of condoms reduces sexual pleasure while others stated that prolonged use of condoms has side effects.This study further revealed that anti-AIDS club at Magwero School for the deaf has played a major role in disseminating HIV and AIDS information. Also it was discovered that the impact of the country's interactive media such as television, radio and newspapers on HIV and AIDS information has not benefited the deaf pupils compared to their hearing counterparts. The other sources of information revealed in the study are the interpersonal communications about AIDS which was highly common among the respondents.In terms of access, the study indicates that both male and female respondents have equal access to HIV and AIDS in general, except in isolated incidences such as access to information about STDs and condom use, males had more information. Most respondents did not see their parents as reliable sources of HIV and AIDS information mostly because they saw their parents as too strict and authoritative. Also the traditional beliefs make the discussion with parents of any issue related to sex a taboo in almost all Zambian societies difficult. The study indicates that despite the HIV and AIDS information that the respondents have acquired many of them still lack the ability to modify their behavior, more so with female respondents who are seen in many ways or being less empowered to make decisions about their sexual health. Indications from the research are that many deaf pupils especially girls become sexually active at a very tender age.A number of the female respondents who took part in this study first had sex when they were merely ten years. Reasons for having sex ranged from, being forced into it to the fear of loosing their boyfriends. For male respondents one of the main reasons for having sex was to be accepted by their peers in an environment where high expectations are linked to a boy's sexual orientation and performance. This research has also shown that more hearing impaired adolescents at Magwero have low risk perceptions. On condom use, the study discovered that several misconceptions which have ultimately contributed to negative attitudes related to the usage of condoms among the respondents. Fear of pregnancy was the major reason why many deaf especially girls preferred to use condoms during sex but not the fear of contracting HIV and AIDs. Surprisingly many female respondents stated that virginity is an out dated concept. Preventive tailored educational HIV and AIDS programme must be intensified and made more comprehensive to bridge the information gap among the hearing impaired pupils.
Sexual Behaviour , Hearing Impairement