Teachers' vulnerability to HIV/AIDS infection : The case of Lusaka District

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Munachaka, Jonathan C
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The sexual transmission of HIV continues at an alarming rate in sub-Saharan Africa despite high knowledge levels of HIV/AIDS. Some factors such as socio-economic, culture, attitudes, communication and perception of risk to HIV may be responsible for engaging in risk sexual behaviors. A cross sectional descriptive qualitative study of "Teachers' Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS Infection: The Case of Lusaka District", involving 300 government school teachers, was carried out. This study was carried out in Lusaka District from October to December 2003. Questionnaires, FGDs, interview and observations were used to collect data. For the purpose of this study a convenient sample of 300 teachers was used to select the teachers from 14 schools situated in the Lusaka District. The study sought to determine the factors that make teachers vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection; establish the gender difference to HIV/AIDS infection; and suggest interventions on how to fight, prevent and control it. The findings show that the subjects had high level of knowledge on HIV/AIDS,though this did not motivate behaviour change as evidenced by low use of condoms by the subjects. For instance, only 27.7% used condoms. Only 10.3% of those who used condoms used them consistently. Some could not use them because of their religious beliefs and lack of enjoyment during their use. Almost one-half (47%) of the respondents believed that condoms were porous and could allow the virus to pass and infect the sexual partner. Others believed that AIDS could be cured by herbal medicine and prayers.Misconceptions about the mode of transmission of HIV were also reported by the respondents such as that HIV is spread by mosquito bites, witchcraft, use of the same cup with the infected and condom lubricant. There were no significant workplace programmes for teachers found at schools. Apart from the teacher co-ordinators of pupils' Anti-AIDS clubs, there was no teacher involvement in such clubs. Condoms (male) were only dispersed at one school by a head teacher and most of the teachers reported that they were mostly and usually shy to collect them from their boss.Teachers' AIDS awareness workshops and seminars were irregular and often conducted by the NGOs to very few selected teachers due to high costs involved in organising such trainings. Those teachers who were suspected of suffering from AIDS were not likely to be promoted or recommended because they were seen not to perform.The study revealed that multiple partnership and sex with non-regular partners, including pupils (72%), prevailed among teachers thereby exposing them, both teachers and pupils, to the risk of HIV infection. The fact that almost one-quarter of teachers were single raised concern of their increased risk of HIV infection as they would be in unsteady sexual relationships.The majority (63%) of the respondents did not know their HIV status. Despite the fact that 32% of the respondents claimed that they were negative, no one reported to be positive while 42% and 49.3% reported that they were neither afraid nor at risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS, respectively. Another 32% of the respondents were not willing to have an HIV test for fear of dying early or being stigmatised and discriminated if the results were positive. This was so despite the government's effort, through the MoH, of supplying free ARVs to sick teachers. This study finding demonstrated the need for strong VCT campaign among the teachers. More female than male teachers were either widowed, divorced or in polygamous marriages. In addition, 9.5% of women also used herbs before sex with their partners to increase sexual arousal, warm vagina and body or contract vagina, among other reasons. Others used ditto, salt solution, vagina douching and tissue paper. The study showed that female teachers were at high risk for HIV infection due to laceration of mucosa. It revealed that the imbalance of power between men and women constrained women's choices with regard to safer sex and continued to affect their decisions. There were several interrelated factors to account for this including social, economic and cultural status of women. Raising knowledge through exposure to information did not lead to optimal behaviour change if risk perception was not also increased. Increases in knowledge must occur concurrent with increases in risk perception for optimal reduction in risk taking behaviour to result. Expectation that attitudes predicted or influenced behaviour was often violated. The prediction of behaviour from attitudes could be improved if situational variables were considered. Innovative sex and reproductive health education and human rights sensitisation were proposed to continuously be offered to teachers, with special emphasis to women. Mass media campaigns should also systematically be designed and mounted in communication about HIV/AIDS.
HIV infections , Viruses- - Infections