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want to have children even when there’s a risk that the child would be infected or be an orphan.

Of all students in our survey, only two male students said that they’ve had sex. Some students told us that sex before marriage is common in India but no one talk about it, while other students said that sex before marriage doesn’t occur. Monogamous marital sex is the cultural norm in India and that might influence the willingness to report sexual activity before marriage. “General population” surveys have reported premarital sex among 7-48% of the males and 3-10% of the females. Among students in secondary school and college (in urban areas) sexual experience is reported by 8-39% of males and 1-20% of females. A study in Orissa among urban and rural men showed that 25% had premarital sex and the mean age for the sexual debut was 23 years (22).

Only 1% of the students in our study said that prostitution is common in their neighbourhood and only some of the students said that they knew where to find the prostitutes. An interesting statement from a male student is that everybody knows where to find prostitutes but it’s common that people don’t want to admit that they are aware of where to find the prostitutes.

In our study we saw that the knowledge about condoms was deficient among the students. In the questionnaires only one fourth of the students answered that they had seen a condom and only one fourth knew how to use it. The students in the interviews that had seen a condom were all males. During the personal interviews many students asked us about condoms and they were interested in knowing how condoms are used. A national behavioural study done in 2001 found that 70% of the men knew that a condom can be used to protect against HIV. The corresponding percentage for women was 48 (12).

Conclusions

  • All of the students have heard about HIV/AIDS but their knowledge about how HIV is transmitted is incomplete and there are still many misconceptions.

  • The majority of the students heard about HIV/AIDS for the first time through media. Media is an effective way of spreading information but the school plays an even more important role in mediating knowledge about HIV and sexual behaviour to young people.

  • The knowledge about protection against HIV is insufficient among the students. Many know that it’s possible to protect against the infection but there are many misunderstandings about the ways of protection. Only one fourth of the students have seen a condom and one fourth know how to use it.

  • Many of the students would like to test themselves for HIV but a lot of them don’t know where they can do the test.

  • The most important way to prevent the rapid transmission of HIV is to raise the level of knowledge about how HIV is transmitted and how to be protected.

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