A RESEARCH STUDY ON MALE ADOLESCENTS’ KNOWLEDGE, PERCEPTIONS AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS HIV/AIDS PREVENTION
Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate the knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes of male adolescents towards HIV/AIDS in order to institute meaningful preventive measures for the control of HIV/AIDS in Elembelle community. Method: the study employed Qualitative research approach to address HIV/AIDS prevention among male adolescents. Six male adolescents from six different villages in the Ellembele District formed the study sample. The ages of the subjects range between 15 and 19 years. The method of collecting data was convenience sampling technique. One of the researchers obtained data through semi structured questions. Findings: The results of the study clearly suggest general HIV/AIDS knowledge may be high but behavioural change is on the low side, the youth continue to practice risk behaviours. The adolescents see the disease as a threat to the society and are clearly aware of the transmission routes and prevention methods but the virus keeps on spreading among the adolescents. Conclusion: Various policy makers and implementers should move beyond raising awareness to focusing on behavioural change because that is the only way to fight the spread of AIDS. Government, opinion leaders and religious bodies should show even stronger commitment in reducing the spread of HIV in the district.
Since the first reported case of HIV/AIDS in 1981, the disease has had a devastating effect on all components of our society and has become the most deadly infectious disease epidemic in recent times. The disease is seen as a threat to the stability of entire nations and regions affecting the most productive members of the society. HIV/AIDS has become a global phenomenon, however the disease is most pronounced in developing countries particularly Sub-Saharan Africa. The spread of the disease has reached pandemic proportions in most parts of the African continent (Agyei-Mensah 2001). The numbers of people infected with HIV keeps on increasing particularly among the young people. The estimated number of persons living with HIV worldwide in 2007 was 33.3 million. African continent alone had 22.5 million of the world’s estimated 33.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS (UNSAID/WHO 2007). UNAIDS estimates showed that young people under 25 accounted for about 45% of all new HIV cases (over 6800 people become infected with HIV everyday) in adults in 2007. The disease continues to ravage Sub-Saharan Africa and it remains the most serious of infectious disease challenges in Africa. The leading cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa is HIV/AIDS (Tanaka, Kunii, Hatano & Wakai 2007). It is true HIV/AIDS continues to spread among the population of the outlying rural communities in Ghana, with its heavy toll on the 15 – 49 year age groups, who constitute the economically productive sector of the country’s economy. Elembelle community is one of the rural communities in the Western Region, Ghana which has seen increases in the spread of HIV/AIDS. The district has one of the worst HIV/AIDS prevalence in Ghana. As at 2006 it had prevalence rate of 15.5% far higher than the national average of 3.2 the same year. It is important to state that these were reported cases at the hospitals and therefore does not represent real magnitude of the problem. The high HIV/AIDS prevalence is attributed to number of factors including high influx of migrant fishermen, mining 3 Bachelor’s Thesis workers, and stranded travelers at the boarder and farm laborers. ((Nzema East Municipal 2006). Prevention supports of donor agencies and the government have been working assiduously to curb the HIV/AIDS epidemic but there has not been any considerable decrease in the prevalent rate within ellembele District. A critical question here is; what could have accounted for this? Prevalence in 15-19 years group shows an increase trend though efforts have been made to slow down the spread. Male adolescents are vulnerable and may be influenced into high-risk behaviours by cultural norms regarding alcohol use, plural or multiple partners and other aspects of social behaviour (Ministry of Health 2001, 37). The gab between male-female ratios regarding the spread of the HIV/AIDS in Ghana used to be wide but recent statistics suggests they are in close balance (Ghana Health Service, 2004). Despite this, few data exist on male adolescent involvement in contracting and transmitting the virus. The aim of this study was to investigate the knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes of male adolescents towards HIV/AIDS in order to institute meaningful preventive measures for the control of HIV/AIDS in Elembelle community. The findings of this study can be added to the existing body of knowledge on HIV/AIDS in Ellembele District and in Ghana as a whole. The findings of this study will help policymakers and healthcare professionals to develop adolescent centered, all-round and intensive programs that will curtail the spread of HIV in the district.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
Definition HIV is the short form of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the virus that causes AIDS. (Levy . 1993). AIDS is an abbreviation for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. Simply put Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which destroys the cells in the human body that combat infections. Dr. Samuel Border, formerly at the National Cancer Institute in the United States of America, reminds us the history of HIV/AIDS. He said “In June of 1981 we saw a young gay man with the most devastating immune deficiency we had ever seen. We said, we don’t know what this is, but we hope we don’t ever see another case like it again” (WHO 1994). On 5th June, 1981, AIDS was first reported in Los Angeles, California. (Centres for Disease Control 1981). According to Broder S 1984 cited by Katrak 2006, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV – 1) was discovered in 1983 as the root cause of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (Katrak 2006). Kahende (2001), in his thesis viewed HIV/AIDS as a cause as well as a symptom of underdevelopment. Its long incubation period makes it hard to predict the social and economic effects it may have on households and national development as a whole (op.cit). The disease mostly affects individuals in their prime between the ages of 15 to 49 years and sizable number of those in this category will have major social and economic effects in the long run (World Bank 2007, International Development Committee (IDC) 2001). The United Nations International Labour Organization’s (ILO) report in Akukwe (2006), suggest that “a minimum of 26 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS are in the workforce with at least two-thirds of them living in Africa”. The consequence of this is that the labour force in Africa will be in jeopardy in the near future. The disease has an incubation period of about 8 years and someone infected with the virus could infect many other people (Kahende, 2001,). This means that a person infected with HIV may not show any noticeable symptoms until between 8years 5 Bachelor’s Thesis to 10 years when the body’s immune system can no longer withstand the HIV virus. During this time many more persons will have become infected [around 6800 new infections per day at present) USAIDS (2007)]. This creates continuing rolling burden and a vicious cycle of illness and deaths which effects could be perilous to the affected countries. This makes AIDS much more dangerous than other diseases since diseases without incubation periods can be easily identified and treated (Kahende, 2001). Cure for HIV/AIDS has not been found yet, however, anti-retroviral therapy can prolong the lives of individuals living with HIV/AIDS (Akukwe 2006). This therapy is however currently expensive and not available to majority of infected people in sub-Sahara Africa (Fry 2007).
3. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The aim of this study was to investigate the knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes of male adolescents towards HIV/AIDS in order to institute meaningful preventive measures for the control of HIV/AIDS in Elembelle community. Ultimately, the study sought to provide information on appropriate intervention methods necessary for preventing HIV/AIDS among male adolescents in the community.
4. RESEARCH METHODS AND DATA SOURCES
Qualitative research approach was used to address HIV/AIDS prevention among male adolescents. Qualitative methodology or deductive approach according to Pope and Mays (1995) is used to explore, interpret or illustrate the actions and/or subjective experiences of research participants. In other words qualitative research tends to give a comprehensive data about human observations, thoughts and feelings; it tries to establish meaning from human life experiences. As the focus of our study was to investigate the knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes of male adolescents towards HIV/AIDS and its prevention, a qualitative approach allowed the participants to express their feelings and experiences genuinely(Punch 1998).
The prevention of HIV/AIDS disease among the adolescent is an important contribution to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in Ellembele and Ghana. The results of this study clearly suggest general HIV/AIDS knowledge may be high but behavioural change is on the low side, the youth continue to practice risk behaviours. The adolescents see the disease as a threat to the society and are clearly aware of the transmission routes and prevention methods but the virus keeps on spreading among the adolescents. Various policy makers and implementers should move beyond raising awareness to focusing on behavioural change because that is the only way to fight the AIDS. Governments, opinion leaders, religious bodies must show even a stronger commitment in reducing the spread of HIV in the district. 31 Bachelor’s Thesis 7.
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