An investigation into the relationship between inaccurate beliefs about HIV transmission, AIDS stigma and risk perception using data from Wave 2 of the Transitions to Adulthood Study.
De Moor, Brendan.
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People living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) have been stigmatized since the epidemic began. Evidence suggests that stigma and discrimination contribute towards perpetuating the epidemic. South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV in the world. Reducing stigmatization may therefore be an important factor in reducing new HIV infections. Studies in other countries have shown that people who possess inaccurate knowledge regarding the way HIV is transmitted have a greater tendency to stigmatize. Furthermore it was found that people who stigmatize are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour and to perceive themselves to be at low risk of contracting HIV. Wave 2 of the Transition to Adulthood study which took place in 2001 interviewed 4185 young people in KwaZulu-Natal on their sexual behaviour. This present study has linked respondent’s levels of HIV transmission knowledge to their stigmatizing attitudes. It was found that accurate knowledge had a significant impact on stigmatizing attitudes. Those respondents who possessed less knowledge were significantly more likely to stigmatize. Differences between levels of stigmatizing were also evident between race groups. Characteristics important to HIV prevention such as condom use and HIV testing were also linked to knowledge and stigmatizing. Respondents who had less knowledge and thus a greater tendency to stigmatize were more likely to have adverse attitudes towards using condoms. These respondents were therefore more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour.