• Mayuri Vaish

Lack of HIV-awareness amongst high-school youths

Although not directly relevant to neuroscience, this post is the result of a mass survey I conducted over the past few weeks in preparation for an AIDS-awareness event, yielding surprising results on the paucity of information that youths aged 15-18 know regarding HIV, possibly contributing (or at least not helping) the stigma against those affected by HIV. Below is a brief abstract/summary:

Aim: To test the general awareness of HIV transmission and implications amongst students aged 15-19 studying at an international school in Asia.

Method: A survey containing 11 HIV-relevant questions were administered to around 1,000 high school students. Among these, 454 students responded (an approximately 45% response rate). The questions of the survey were adapted from two different research papers that had also tested HIV awareness[1] [2].

Results: 29.1% of respondents believed that HIV was transmissible through saliva. More importantly, 30.6% of students felt that HIV could be transmitted via mosquitoes. Only 85.5% students thought sharing needles could lead to HIV transmission, but a good 95.8% of students knew that HIV was sexually transmissible. Lastly, a notable 16.3% students thought that sharing food and utensils could lead to transmission of HIV. 68.5% believed that HIV can be transferred at all stages of life, while 61.3% responded either 'Yes' or 'Not sure' to whether their attitude to someone would change upon finding out they have HIV. Approximately 80% of students believed that Radio/TV/Film, and AIDS focus week or similar kinds of campaigns would be the most effective in raising social awareness about HIV.

Conclusion: HIV is indeed a dangerous disease, and one must be careful to not contract it from others. However, misguided beliefs such as HIV being transmissible by saliva, washing dishes, or mosquitoes, is what leads to unjustified discrimination against HIV patients, rendering them unable to secure future employment or stable relationships despite strong credentials. These results are surprising considering the global focus and international nature of the school, and implies that education regarding HIV must be emphasized in high school, whether via a campaign or, on a larger scale, by media channels, which can reduce stigma around HIV in the long term.

Let's support the WHO and the UN in their ultimate goal: Getting to Zero.