Knowledge, attitudes and practices of mildly mentally retarded adolescents in relation to HIV/AIDS.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the knowledge, attitudes and sexual practices of mildly mentally retarded (MMR) adolescents with regard to HIV/AIDS. The 3 main objectives, were: 1) examining what MMR adolescents know about HIV/AIDS and the sources of their knowledge. 2) examining the attitudes and behaviours of MMR adolescents in relation to HIV/AIDS. 3) examining the influence of peer norms and self efficacy factors on their attitude and behaviours in relation to HIV/AIDS. Questionnaires were personally administered to a saturation sample of 90 MMR Black adolescents drawn from one specialised educational institution in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Statistical analysis of the data revealed the following. 1) Critical gaps and erroneous beliefs regarding knowledge of HIV/AIDS, especially with regard to existence, transmission and cure. Respondents indicated a high degree of exposure to various sources of information, particularly media. 2) The majority of respondents in general did not hold prejudicial attitudes towards stigmatised groups and to infected persons. While only a small number of MMR adolescents were sexually active, the use of contraceptives was found to be extremely low. 3) Gender role prescriptions and societal constructs of immorality had a negative influence on the attitudes and behaviours of the subjects' sexual practices and preventative behaviour. Further, MMR adolescents were found to have low levels of self-efficacy in relation to issues concerning sexual negotiation and decision making, more specifically with regard to condom usage. Findings are discussed against the backdrop of the empirical literature on HIV/AIDS, developmental theory, as well as pertinent theories and models of health behaviour. Drawing on the primary conclusions of the study, a systemic body of recommendations is offered with regard to programmatic intervention within the school as a health promotion setting.