Author(s): Ambati BK, Ambati J, Rao AM
AIDS awareness and attitudes among an educated segment of the Indian population were assessed. The study population was a total of 433 students and faculty in colleges and universities, and research & technical staff of the Public Health Service. While most knew that sexual intercourse (96%) & injection drug use (85%) could transmit HIV, and that shaking hands (95%) & mosquitoes (86%) could not, 63% did not know that breastfeeding was a mode of transmission and 71% falsely believed that they could acquire HIV by donating blood. The only variable to correlate positively with knowledge was education. Knowledge about true and false modes of transmission constituted three distinct dimensions as determined by factor analysis. An overwhelming majority (90%) harboured at least one hostile view towards persons with AIDS. Knowledge and education independently correlated with decreased hostility. There was great concern about the impact of the disease: 85% believed that AIDS is a very serious problem in India and 93% favoured increased government spending on AIDS education. These results display high levels of knowledge (with some gaps), and widespread support for increased action. PIP: AIDS knowledge and attitudes among the most educated sector of the population were explored in a 1994 survey involving 433 university students and faculty from southern India (Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu) and selected research and technical staff of the Public Health Service. Although most respondents were aware that sexual intercourse (95%) and injecting drug use (85%) can transmit HIV, and that shaking hands (95%) and mosquito bites (86%) can not, 63% did not know that breast feeding is a mode of transmission and 71% incorrectly identified blood donation as an HIV risk factor. 95% knew it is impossible to identify an HIV-infected individual on the basis of appearance, but only 24% realized seropositive persons can be asymptomatic. 42% believed that those with HIV should be quarantined and 31% favored barring infected students from college classes. 90% harbored at least 1 negative view toward people with AIDS (e.g., they deserve their fate or they should kill themselves); knowledge and education independently correlated with decreased hostility. 85% agreed that AIDS is a very serious problem in India and, despite their negative attitudes toward persons with AIDS, 93% favored increased government spending on AIDS education. Overall, these findings indicate that high levels of education are associated with above-average knowledge of HIV and its transmission; however, the sexually conservative nature of Indian society has impeded a compassionate stance toward people with AIDS, even among the most educated.