different occupational groups were interviewed) showed that only 41% of the respondents had heard about HIV/AIDS. This study also showed large differences in knowledge between different occupational groups. The professionals and office-goers had the highest awareness while laborers, farmer, vendors and housewives had most misconceptions about HIV/AIDS. The student category fell in between (18). In a study done in 2002-2003 among students of higher secondary schools in an urban area of Himachal Pradesh most of the students (92%) had heard of HIV/AIDS (19).
In our survey the majority of the students first heard about HIV/AIDS through media (about 60%). The same trend was seen in both the Maharastra study (25) and the Karnataka study (20) where most of the participants also answered media. Even if media is an effective way of spreading information, we think it’s important that teenagers have the possibility to discuss and ask questions about HIV, and in that aspect well informed parents and information in school are important parts.
During the personal interviews we saw that many students don’t talk to anyone about sex. Many of the students said that they would like to learn about sex in school but some students in the city said that they wouldn’t like to have any sexual education in school. Since HIV is a sexually transmitted disease it’s important to have knowledge about sex to be able to protect against the disease. Many risk behaviours, such as risky sexual behaviours and drug use, are often adopted in young adolescence. Therefor it’s important to put a lot the prevention efforts on the young people. It might be easier to influence young people to develop a healthy behaviour rather than modify behaviours at a later age (21). The school plays an important role in mediating knowledge about sexual behaviour. Another reason why the prevention efforts should be focused on the adolescents is that approximately 30% of India’s population is between 10-24 years old (21).
To prevent the further spread of the disease it’s fundamental that people have a good knowledge about the transmission of HIV and the protection against it. In our study we see that still there are misconceptions about the ways of transmission. 96.7% of the students in the village and 99.3% in the city knew that HIV is spread through sexual contact. However some of them thought that you get infected only if you have multiple sexual partners or sex before marriage. One question asked by a student during the personal interviews shows one of the misconceptions about the transmission. He asked “how many persons can you have sex with before you will get the HIV infection ?”. He thought that it’s the number of sexual partners that determines if you get infected or not. A large amount of the students in our study do know about the sexual transmission of HIV but the percentages has to increase to 100. Everyone also needs to know that you can get the infection through sex, irrespective of numbers of partners and that it’s not related to if you have sex before or after marriage. The misconceptions among the students in our study that HIV is spread when eating or drinking from the same plates or cups, shake hands/ hug/ live in the same house, or wash/change clothes for an HIV infected can lead to avoidance and segregation of the HIV infected persons from the society. Therefor it’s important to clear up those misconceptions.
Compared to other studies, the students in our study had a better knowledge about sexual transmission. In the study among males in Karnataka, 80% were aware of the sexual spread (20). The corresponding percentage among the women in Maharastra (25) was 89. A study made in 2003 showed that less than 25% of the women in the rural areas of Bihar, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh knew that HIV can be transmitted sexually (16). The study among slum dwellers in Chennai showed that 39% weren’t aware of the sexual transmission of HIV (17).