Knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of medical male circumcision as an HIV prevention procedure by white and Indian male students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Howard College.
This study establishes the knowledge, perceptions and attitudes of white and Indian male students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) Howard College on Medical Male Circumcision (MMC) as an HIV prevention procedure. The study is informed by data that represents HIV as infecting and affecting larger proportions of black people compared to white and Indian people. This creates a perception that, in South Africa and elsewhere, HIV/AIDS is an exclusively “black” disease or problem. The researcher assessed the level of knowledge and attitudes of White and Indian male students in order to establish acceptability of HIV prevention by these two demographics. MMC was used as an example. This choice was informed by the UKZN’s formal adoption and roll out of MMC as its latest HIV prevention strategy for students. By establishing the level of knowledge, perceptions and attitudes of white and Indian male students on MMC and its reported medical benefits (for example, the fact that it reduces the risk of infection by at least 60%), the researcher sought to address two related questions: To what extent do non-black student demographics care about HIV prevention? To what extent do white and Indian students reflect about HIV prevalence amongst themselves? The study is rooted in the Health Belief Model, a model which explains health behaviour change in terms of barriers, benefits and cues to action. The study is also informed by the Social Ecology Model, which recognises the interwoven relationship that exists between individuals and their greater environment, and how one influences the other. The findings suggest that the perception that white and Indian students are not at risk of HIV is relatively widespread. By extension, the perception that strategies such as MMC are meant exclusively for black students is held by many. The attitude towards HIV prevention in general and MMC in particular is indifferent. Ironically, knowledge of HIV prevention in general is high, but has failed to translate into uptake for MMC by white and Indian male students at Howard College. These findings demonstrate that the association of HIV with a specific race is both a sad fact and a sign of enduring prejudices and stigma. The study recommends that such stigma should be dealt with through critical health communication strategies and approaches that i) question the social reproduction of stigma and ii) are race sensitive. Critical sentitivity to (the complexities of) race in public health communication has the potential to radically minimise the reproduction of distorted knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of certain races as natural bearers of deadly viruses.
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