A community based study of the relationship between HIV knowledge, perceived risk and perceptions about HIV vaccines.
Adebowale, Taiwo Olayemi.
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To date, the HIV/AIDS pandemic remains a global disaster. The sheer scale of the pandemic and the limited success of prevention programmes in controlling its spread have necessitated an urgent need for the development of a safe, effective and affordable HIV preventive vaccine. However, perceptions of HIV vaccines and the relationships between HIV/AIDS knowledge, perceived risk and existing views on HIV vaccines are minimum characteristics required to make future HIV vaccines a worthwhile public health tool. This study reports findings among representatives of the ethnic groups aged between 18 and 49 in the Rustenburg community of Bojanala district (N = 351). The study utilized some of the data collected by the Aurum Institute of Health Research representative household survey that forms part of a range of HIV vaccine preparedness studies in the Bojanala area, Rustenburg. Descriptive statistics were applied to all items. Independent samples T- tests and Analysis of variances (ANOVAs) were used to compare means. Correlational statistics (Pearson‘s product moment) was used to explore relationships between pairs of variables. A standard multiple regression analyses was applied to assess and explore the factor(s) that predict the likelihood that respondents would report supportive perceptions for HIV vaccines while the hierarchical model fitted was done to control for the influence of demographic variables. About 74% of the study participants had good knowledge of HIV/AIDS-related issues and the same percentage of respondents identified self and their community to be at risk of HIV/AIDS infection (measured as fatalism regarding risk of contracting HIV infection). Positive view-points regarding participation in vaccine trials and belief in a future HIV vaccine to protect from contracting HIV infection was reported by almost 90% of the study participants. Meanwhile, a majority (60%) had low levels of knowledge on HIV vaccines. The results of standard and hierarchical multiple regressions showed that knowledge on HIV/AIDS transmission, prevention and treatment (in particular) are the best predictors of perceptions of an HIV vaccine. Furthermore, with the exception of the duo of perceived HIV risk and perceptions of HIV vaccine, positive correlations were found among knowledge, perceived HIV risk and vaccine perceptions, as well as among these and exposure to the media. Race (being Black in particular) and low levels of education seem to be profound challenges facing HIV/AIDS related issues, particularly perceived HIV risk. The findings from this study have implications for strategies in HIV prevention, viz. education, service delivery, advocacy and policy among others at institutional, national, regional, and global level in both public and private sectors. Political will, unprecedented collaborative effort among stakeholders and review of the existing Expanded Programme of Immunization schedule are all required to make the future HIV vaccine globally available. In addition, deductions highlight several key areas where research is urgently needed.