Exploring HIV Knowledge and Attitudes Among Adolescents in Uganda


Focus groups in 3 Mbarara schools identified adolescent knowledge, attitudes, and suggestions for HIV prevention in Uganda.

In Uganda, the prevalence of HIV among adolescents is 8.3% in females and 6.3% in males, respectively. Both of these statistics are higher than Uganda’s national prevalence of 6%. Previous studies have examined Ugandan HIV/AIDS knowledge and attitudes, but have largely focused on adult perceptions.

A new study, presented at the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care Conference (ANAC 2019) in an oral abstract session, explored HIV knowledge, attitudes, and input from adolescents on effective prevention strategies.

Investigators determined that adolescents with accurate knowledge of HIV were willing to offer support to people living with HIV. The descriptive qualitative study was conducted in 3 schools in the Ugandan city of Mbarara with a sample of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years with data collected from 6 focus groups. Each focus group contained 8 participants each.

The authors point to 5 themes which emerged from their focus groups: adolescent knowledge of HIV, attitude towards persons with HIV, sources of information, ages most affected, and prevention strategies. Most adolescents reported getting their information on HIV from multiple sources, including social media. Abstract authors wrote that most adolescents demonstrated knowledge of HIV as “a virus that destroyed lives, had no cure, and was transmitted through bodily fluids.”

Study participants didn’t perceive adolescents as innately more vulnerable, but claimed their susceptibility was due to a desire for sexual exploration. Attitudes toward individuals with HIV were mixed with compassion, shock, and discomfort. When prompted for prevention strategies, the participants suggested prevention content and strategies be implemented in school and with parents at home. Strategies suggested emphasized HIV education, general life skills, and sex education which utilized peer support.

Adolescents felt sex education and HIV prevention should use a variety of approaches, and be reinforced both in schools and on online platforms like social media. Study authors concluded that the information they gathered could benefit HIV prevention policies that appeal to adolescents.

The abstract, HIV knowledge, attitudes and prevention strategies of adolescents in secondary schools in Mbarara Municipality, Uganda, was presented in an oral abstract session at ANAC 2019 in Portland, Oregon.

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