Dr. Rina Das*
Adolescent Health Clinic Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata *
Acquired immunodeficiency Syndrome is an important problem for the entire world and especially for the developing countries. According to UNAIDS, most vulnerable age group prone to HIV / AIDS is 15-25 years.

Around 25% of the world's cases are in their 20s and most likely those people have become infected with HIV during their adolescent period (Ref: Farghaly A G, Kamal M M : Study of opinion and level of knowledge about AIDS problem amongst secondary school students and teachers in Alexandria. J Egypt Public Health Assoc. 1991;66 (1-2):209-225).

As there is no effective treatment or vaccine against HIV / AIDS, awareness can only prevent spread of the disease.

With this idea in mind, the present study was carried out to evaluate the existing levels of knowledge and awareness about AIDS among Higher Secondary school students who are the most vulnerable group.

Material & Methods
The study was conducted among class XI students of four Govt. schools of Kolkata (two boys & two girls schools) by administering a questionnaire based Performa containing questions on knowledge, attitude and beliefs regarding various aspects of HIV / AIDS. All the students present in the class on the days of survey were requested to answer the questions after being explained the purpose of the study. The students were encouraged to give their frank opinion as their identity was kept confidential. 243 girls and 132 boys between 16-17 yrs of age (Total = 375 students) participated in the study.

Table I shows 63.3% girl students and 58.3% boy students have knowledge of AIDS transmission by sexual route. Only 23.2% boys and 19.1% girl students have knowledge on transmission from infected mother to child in womb and 27.2% boys and 21.9% girls are aware of possibility of transmission through blood transfusion. Also 26.5% boys and 18.5% girls have misconception regarding transmission of infection by casual contacts and 23.3% boys and 13.1% girls have wrong idea of transmission by insect bites.

Table II shows that 60% students knew that AIDS can be prevented by monogamous relationship. About 72.4% girls and 68.5% boys are aware of using condom for prevention of AIDS. Only 32% boys and 28% girls have the correct idea of using sterilized needle and syringe for HIV / AIDS prevention.

Only 17.6% students are aware of HIV screened blood to be a preventive measure.

It is revealed from Table III that 62% boys and 56.2% girls gathered knowledge about HIV / AIDS from Television, 38.5% boys and 42.4% girls from friends, 29.6% from radio and 19.4% from newspaper, magazine and books. Information from teachers is 11.4% and from parents 4.8% only.

Table I. Knowledge in AIDS Transmission

Routs of transmission Boys No. (n = 132)
Girls No. n = 243)
Total No. n = 375)
Sexual Transmission 77 58.3 153 63.3 230 61.3
From Infected Mother to Child in womb 31 23.2 46 19.1 77 20.5
By shaking hands, Kissing, Hugging, sharing cloths & utensils 35 26.5 45 18.5 80 21.3
Through blood transfusion 36 27.2 53 21.9 89 23.7
Though mosquito flea or other Insect bites 28 23.3 32 12.1 60 16
No response 17 12.8 15 6.1 32 8.5

Table II. Knowledge Regarding Prevention of AIDS

Mode of Prevention Boys No. (n = 132) % Girls No. (n = 243) %
Total No.
(n = 375)%
Safe sex (monogamous relationship 78 59 148 61.2
Use of Condom 90 68.5 176 72.4
Ensuring use of sterilized Needle & Syringe 42 32 68 28
Using only HIV screened Blood 17 13 49 20.1
No response 18 13.6 20 8.23

Table III. Source of Information of Knowledge About AIDS

Source Boys No. (n = 132) %
Girls No. (n = 243) %

Total No.
(n = 375)
Television 82 62 116

Radio 36 27.3 75

Friends 51 38.5 103

News Papers, Magazines & Books 19 14.2 54

Teachers 14 10.8 29

Parents 10 7.5 8

In this study we have found that 58.3% boys and 63.3% girls are aware of transmission of AIDS by sexual route. But knowledge that it is transmitted by infected blood and from infected mother to child in womb are not widely known. Misconception regarding transmission by casual contact is higher among boys than in girls in the present study.

Regarding prevention, 68.5% boys and 72.4% girls knew that condom can be used for prevention of AIDS. Monogamous relationship is known by 59% boys and 61.2% girls. But awareness on use of sterilized needles or blades and HIV screened blood during blood transfusion are poor among school children.

Television, friends, newspaper, magazine and radio are the main source of information on AIDS among students, teachers and parents play minor role.

Lack of knowledge coupled with misconception about spread of HIV exists among students.
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