Author(s): Porter SB
Despite the relatively recent introduction of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) into India, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is rapidly becoming a significant health problem in that country. Education about AIDS remains the most effective strategy to prevent its spread. To assess the level of knowledge and the associated attitudes about AIDS among Indians in Calcutta, 153 English-speaking adults were surveyed during April and May 1990. Sixty-five of 75 men (87%) and 77 of 78 women (99%) questioned had heard of AIDS, the majority within the past 2-3 years. Newspaper and television were the most frequently cited sources of information. Of respondents who had heard of the disease, 95% knew AIDS was transmitted by sexual intercourse; less than half, however, also knew that AIDS could not be acquired through kissing, insect bites or by using public toilets. In general, respondents had little specific knowledge regarding the symptoms of AIDS, and 29% were unaware that infected persons could be asymptomatic and appear healthy. Level of education was the only variable that independently correlated with knowledge of AIDS. More than one-third of respondents would not have dinner with or continue to work with an AIDS patient and 50% believed all AIDS patients should be quarantined. More effective and widespread public education is necessary to help slow the rapidly developing AIDS epidemic in India.