Knowledge, attitudes and practices of youth towards HIV/AIDS: A case of Northern Uganda region
Uganda has been hailed for combating HIV/AIDS epidemic from 18% prevalence in 1992 to 6.1% in 2000. However it has now risen to 6.4% in 2004/5. Northern Uganda which has faced political turmoil and insurgency for the past 20 years presents a mixed picture with the highest prevalence of 8.2% in the country. The main objective of the research was to investigate the relationship between socio-economic characteristics, knowledge and practices towards HIV/AIDS among youth in Northern Uganda Region. Data on 910 youth from Northern Uganda was extracted from the national Uganda demographic and health survey of 2006. Univariate, bivariate and multivariate analyses were applied to the data. There is evidence of some positive behavior in that most youth (88%) with knowledge of AIDS, were willing to test for HIV. A high percentage (88%) of those who knew someone with AIDS were willing to test for HIV. In addition, a large majority (85%) of the respondents who could identify persons at risk of HIV infection were willing to test. However, the above does not translate into positive behavior. For instance the study findings indicated that 67% of the youth were currently married; 17% cohabiting and 6% divorced/separated/widowed and only 10% were never married. Although the respondents with knowledge of HIV/AIDS were 98%, those who knew persons sick or dead of AIDS related diseases were 86% and knew who were at risk of HIV were 66%. Only 7% of the respondents were abstaining from sex at the time of the survey and 40% had used condoms in the last 12 months preceding the survey. Overall, 68% of the males and 64% of the female youth had sex in the past 12 months and of these 23% had sex with at least 2 partners. At the bivarite analysis the mean number of multiple sexual partners was significantly associated with age, education, and marital status. Also condom use at last sex in the last 12 months was significantly associated with sex, age, residence, education, marital status and religion. Furthermore, significant association was found between willingness to test for HIV and sex and residence. Results from multivariate analysis show that age, residence, education, occupation, knowledge of one dead or sick of AIDS and risk perceptions were significant predictors of condom use at last sex. Only sex was observed to be significantly related with willingness to test for HIV. In conclusion although knowledge about HIV is important, translating it into behavior or practices to prevent or protect individuals against contracting HIV is essential. It is important to sensitize youth on the need to adopt safe sexual behavior. A comprehensive school sex education programme that scales up the understanding of safe behavior and enables girls to negotiate for safe sex will be required. The findings have important implications for the development of primary HIV/AIDS prevention programs for youth in war torn areas.