Misconceptions About HIV, Risky Behavior High Among Members of Nigerian Navy, Survey Shows
Almost 33% of soldiers in the Nigerian navy say they have had sex with a commercial sex worker, and nearly half reported not using a condom, according to a survey published in the June 21 issue of the journal Biomedcentral Public Health, BBC News reports. AIDS-related diseases are the leading cause of death among military and police units in Africa and could be responsible for more than half of the deaths among soldiers in Nigeria, according to BBC News (BBC News, 6/21). Ugboga Nwokoji of the Nigerian Red Cross Society and Ademola Ajuwon of the Department of Health Promotion and Education at the University of Ibadan College of Medicine in Nigeria in 2002 administered a 70-question survey to 480 members of the Nigerian navy. The researchers also conducted interviews with four participants to study the context of high-risk sexual behavior and determine possible content for HIV education programs. The researchers found that although respondents had a mean AIDS knowledge score of 7.1 out of a possible 10 points, 52.1% of respondents mistakenly believed there is a cure for HIV/AIDS. In addition, 25.3 % of participants incorrectly believed that a person can contract HIV by sharing personal items with an HIV-positive person, and 88.1% of respondents reported having multiple sexual partners -- an average of 5.1 partners over their lifetimes. About 32.5% of male respondents reported having had sex with a commercial sex worker, 41% of whom did not use a condom during the most recent such encounter. Group discussion participants and individual interviewees said that sex with multiple partners is a "tradition" that has persisted in the navy because of the belief that traditional medicine protects against HIV and that AIDS affects only those in other countries. The influence of alcohol was also cited as a factor, according to the study. The researchers concluded that sustained educational programs, condom promotion and changes in transfer policies should be implemented to address high-risk behavior among naval personnel (Nwokoji/Ajuwon, Biomedcentral Public Health, 6/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.