Most People in Developing Nations Aware of HIV/AIDS But Few Take Precautions Against Infection, U.N. Report Says
Despite campaigns that have successfully raised awareness of HIV/AIDS in developing countries, such efforts have not had a major impact on people's behavior and their perceived risk of contracting the disease, according to a report released yesterday by the United Nations, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. U.N. researchers analyzed Demographic and Health Surveys of approximately 5,000 households that were conducted in the mid-to-late 1990s in 39 African, Asian and Latin American nations. The report was released to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the first U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/22). Joseph Chamie, director of the United Nations' population division, which compiled the report, said that the study, titled "HIV/AIDS: Awareness and Behavior," was the first attempt by the United Nations to measure behavior and HIV transmission patterns. The report, the largest international study on HIV/AIDS ever completed by the United Nations, said that "most people" in developing nations know about HIV/AIDS, with women less informed than men. Radio was the most popular way that respondents said they received information about the disease, with friends and relatives the second most common source. Although most participants were aware of the disease, at least two-thirds of female respondents and eight out of 10 male respondents felt they "were either at no risk at all or at small risk" of contracting HIV. Those figures are "naively optimistic," the New York Times reports, as many respondents live in countries where one in five people has HIV (Crossette, New York Times, 6/23).
Prevention Action Lacking
The report said that among respondents who were aware of HIV/AIDS, a "large majority" knew of at least one way to protect themselves from contracting the disease. Using a condom and having one sex partner were the two most popular answers (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/22). Many respondents said they were limiting sexual partners to avoid infection. But fewer than 8% of women and between 15% and 25% of men said they had begun using condoms in their sexual relationships, the report noted. Further, in societies where men have several wives or "extensive premarital or extramarital sexual contact," many men are not using condoms (New York Times, 6/23). "The results from this study highlight the enormous challenge lying ahead in the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS. Clearly, dramatic changes in sexual and reproductive awareness and behavior in many less developed countries are needed in order to defeat the HIV/AIDS epidemic," the report concluded (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/22).
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