Background HIV has become a serious problem in India with one of the highest rates of spread in the world. Many features contribute to India’s vulnerability concerning the transmission of HIV; poverty, illiteracy, a large and young population and an increasing level of urbanisation. To prevent the further spread of HIV it’s fundamental that people have a good knowledge about the disease. Since many risk behaviours, associated with the transmission of HIV, are adopted in young ages it’s very important to put much of the prevention efforts on adolescents. The aim of our study was to investigate and compare the knowledge about and attitudes to HIV/AIDS among teenage students in the city and the rural area in India.
Methods 260 standardised questionnaires concerning knowledge and attitudes towards HIV/AIDS, socio-cultural factors and private life were filled in by teenage students in the rural area and the urban area in the Solapur district in the state of Maharastra, India. 39 personal interviews with more open questions regarding the same subject were also done in the same area.
Results Our study showed that almost all of the students (99%) had heard about HIV/AIDS. Most of the students were aware of the sexual transmission (96.6% in the village and 99.3% in the city) and many knew that the disease can be spread through breast feeding (82.8% in the village and 76.8% in the city). Still there are misconceptions about the transmission of HIV, about one third of all the students thought that HIV can be spread by kissing and 14.3% of the female students in the village thought that you can get HIV if you wash or change clothes for someone who has the infection. 93% of the students in the city and 74% in the village claimed that there are ways to protect against HIV and answers that were mentioned were protected sex and use of disposable syringes. The knowledge about condoms was insufficient among the students, especially among the females. Only 18% of the females and 29% of the males knew how to use a condom
Conclusion The knowledge about how HIV is transmitted is incomplete among the students. 99% of the students had heard about the HIV/AIDS but there are still many misconceptions about the disease. The majority of the students first heard about HIV/AIDS from media. Media is an effective way of spreading information but the school also plays an important role. The awareness of protection against HIV is insufficient among the students and there are misunderstandings about 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 spread of HIV is to raise the level of knowledge about the transmission of and the protection against HIV.