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Why HIV Prevention Programs Fail

Why HIV Prevention Programs Fail

The gap between knowledge and practice of risky sexual behaviors for HIV.

Sunday the first of December it was World Aids Day, a day to raise awareness of this destructive pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. Globally around 34 million people are living with HIV. World Aids Day is aimed at teaching people facts about HIV, as knowledge is very important in combating this disease.

However, the decrease in HIV prevalence rates is not as high as expected for the corresponding financial and time efforts invested into its prevention. Although education is essential in preventing the spread of HIV infection, knowledge is only of use if put into practice. A recent study assesses knowledge and attitudes regarding HIV/AIDS among University students and staff in Moshi Town in Tanzania

Gap between knowledge and practice of risky sexual behaviour

It seems that sexual practice among university respondents lags behind knowledge and attitude towards HIV awareness and thus prevention. The researchers find a big gap between what the respondents know and do. So even though most of the respondents know that having unprotected sex is risky, they still engage in it. Why? Participants were asked about reasons for not using condoms as a protective measure.

Reasons for not using condoms

The majority of respondents said they did not use condoms because it increases the pleasure, it is a sign of love or because the sex was unplanned. Also drunkenness compelled respondents to engage in unprotected sex. Among female participants a lack of bargaining power  was found. Men are more likely to take advantage of their physical strength and sexual decision making authority to coerce women into sex. Sex in the context of poor countries involves, to a large extent, financial gifts to the female partner. Such financial influence, apart from other factors, plays a major role on the lower likelihood for decision-making on condom use by females.

Advice: target behaviour change

The researchers conclude that more effort needs to be directed to influence changes in behaviour. Public health information campaigns that are successful at reaching the masses alone are not successful in combating the disease, as it does not always result in the desired behavioural change.

Edith Kwigizile, Ebenezar Shao, Grayson Mtango, Tolbert Sonda, Juliana Moshi, Jaffu Chilongola (2013). The gap between knowledge and practice of risky sexual behaviors for HIV among University students and staff in Moshi Town in Tanzania The Journal of Public Health in Africa DOI: 10.4081/jphia.2013.e8
Photo Credit: flickr, robertelyov

Flora Brils

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