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The main objective this study was to find out the level of knowledge and awareness of youths in secondary schools on HIV/AIDs as one of the objectives in achieving the Kenya National HIV/AIDS communication strategy. Adopting a survey design, qualitative techniques, questionnaires, interviews and documentation, a sample of 405 was selected from a target population of 3,854 students. The study was based on a theoretical and conceptual framework with key concepts derived from Harold Lasswel theory of 1948, which has been developed to Modern Communication Theory. The data was analysed thematically. Results indicate that about 399 (99%) of the respondents had heard about AIDS compared to only 4 (1%) who had not. Knowledge had no statistically significant relationship with risk of HIV and AIDS. About 53.3% of the respondents reported to have had sex, with males being more likely to have an early sexual debut. Sexual activity was higher among peri-urban respondents (37%) who also had more than 3 sexual partners. About 71.4% of the respondents were willing to change their behaviour to avoid contracting HIV. On bivariate analysis, exposure to risk factors was dependent on gender
(p < 0.05), perceived risk and condom used were related (p < 0.05).The study concluded that despite their high knowledge and awareness on HIV and AIDS, not all students who were exposed to risk perceived themselves to be at risk. The main preventive method of contracting HIV/AIDS was through condom use, cultural practices like wife inheritance and traditional circumcision increased the risk of infection and that affective communication was not used in schools to reduce HIV/AIDS infection and affection. The study recommended that though creating more awareness on HIV/AIDs was still necessary to diffuse some misconceptions, more effort was needed to address behavior change among the adolescents especially through affective communication. This could be done through inviting specialized groups to speak to adolescents in schools.
Background to the study
According to NASCOP (2005) Kenya is still faced with an increasing problem from HIV infection, and the vulnerability of the youth is a key concern. Although HIV occurs in all social and economic classes, much research has concentrated on disadvantaged and deprived communities. This study was carried out among secondary school students for the following reasons: first, adolescents comprise the most sexually active age-group according to Berer and Ray (1993). Statistics indicate that worldwide, the majority of those infected with HIV are between 20 and 45 years. When the slow rate of progression from HIV to AIDS is factored in, then it is highly likely that many of these adults were infected with HIV during their youth (NASCOP, 2005). Second, adolescence is characterized by experimentation with and initiation into risky sexual behavioral practices, including sex, alcohol and drugs. Third, since the present sexual behaviour of the youth will determine the future level of HIV infection, it is crucial to protect the current generation from contracting HIV in order to ensure healthy future generations (CBS, 2004). And lastly, several studies have shown that today’s young adults are becoming increasingly sexually active at a tender age. Few of them use contraceptives and are therefore at risk of HIV and AIDS and unwanted pregnancy (Kermyt and Beutel, 2005).
A study conducted by Wong, Chin, Low and Jaafar, assessing the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about HIV/AIDS among Malaysian adolescents indicated that HIV/AIDS knowledge among the adolescents was moderate and with misconceptions (Wrong et al., 2008). Although knowledge alone does not change behaviour and there is no significant relationship between sexual knowledge and safe sex, knowledge of the facts of HIV transmission plays an obvious role in increasing the likelihood of safer sex through perceptions of individual risk (Tehrani and Afzali, 2008). Adolescents have poor knowledge of preventive sexual practices related to HIV and AIDS (Jara et al., 2008). Even though many adolescents have heard about HIV/AIDS many of them have misconceived ideas on its infection, transmission and prevention. A majority of youths have heard of AIDS, but many do not know its transmission pattern properly or have misconceptions, have not been informed about the preventive effects of condoms and have a low perception of their individual risk (Tehrani and Afzali, 2008). Adolescents' knowledge and its influence’ concluded that although adolescents' knowledge of HIV transmission might have improved over the past few years, their risk-related behaviors remain unchanged (Ocran and Danso, 2009).
The objectives of the study were:
1) To assess the levels of knowledge and awareness of HIV/AIDS among secondary school students in Eldoret West District.
2) Investigate the students’ attitudes to HIV/AIDS and PLWAs.
3) Establish HIV/AIDS prevention methods through practice and behavior.
4) Identify existing cultural practices and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS.
5) Give recommendations on how well HIV/AIDS information can be communicated affectively
1) What do students know about HIV/AIDs infection and transmission rates.
2) What is the attitude of students towards HIV/AIDs and PLWAs
3) How do students prevent themselves from acquiring HIV/AIDS
4) What are the existing cultural practices and misconceptions that enhance the spread of HIV/AIDS
5) How can HIV/AIDS information be affectively communicated to the students.
“Affective communication is that kind of speaking that touches the feelings and emotions of the listener”
The study is grounded in Harold Lasswells theory of 1948 which has been developed to modern communication theory. This theory is based on mathematical theorems developed by Claude Shannon, an engineer and researcher at Bell Laboratories in 1948. Shannons original theory was later elaborated and given a more popular, non-mathematical formulation by Warren Weaver, a media specialist with the Rockefeller foundation. In effect, Weaver extended Shannons insights about electronic signal transmission and the quantitative measurement of information flows into a broad theoretical model of human communication, which he defined as “all of the ways by which one mind may affect another.”
The effectiveness of human communication, Weaver asserted, may be measured by, ‘the success with which the meaning conveyed to the receiver leads to the desired conduct on his part.’ He thus introduced concepts of human purpose and reaction into what had originally been a set of highly technical equations for analyzing and evaluating transmission of messages. Both mathematical and diagrammatic in character, the Shannon and weaver model measures the efficiency and flexibility of a communication system. It is sometimes referred to as the S-M-C-R Model, a mnemonic formula representing the sequence on its main components.
The study design was descriptive and cross-sectional and was carried out in the study area between February and March 2010.
It covered a sample of student population of 405 drawn from 15 out of 45 schools in Eldoret West District. Simple random and probability proportional to size sampling methods were used to sample the schools and the actual participants from each class.
Participants included Students attending secondary schools in the study area in term one 2010.
The study was conducted among students attending public secondary schools in Eldoret West District with a population of 3,854 students. The study subjects were drawn from Form One to Form Four students among the sampled schools in the study area.