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HIV Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices among College Students in the United States.

JHHSA, Vol. 32 No. 3, (2009)

BACKGROUND: Students enrolled at a Midwestern university in the United States were surveyed between February and April 2008 about their HIV knowledge, sources of information, attitude toward people living with HIV/AIDS, and their sexual behaviors.

METHODS: An anonymous questionnaire was sent to 1,000 students via Survey Monkey.

RESULTS: Of the 650 respondents (65%) who provided complete information, 91.2% were white, 70.6% were female, 76.3% were seniors at the university and 94.7% were heterosexuals. Their average age was 22.5 years (SD ± 4) with a range of 18 to 30 years. Although the majority of students (77.3%) reported to be very familiar with HIV/AIDS including its mode of transmission, important misconceptions still exist regarding HIV/AIDS. Several students either thought that mosquitoes transmit HIV/AIDS (14.2%) or did not know one way or the other (19.9%). About 43.1% were unsure about the existence of drugs that can prevent maternal to child transmission of HIV and 12% actually believed that these drugs do not exist. Moreover, despite the high prevalence of risky sexual behaviors among students, the majority of participants (86.8%) did not perceive themselves to be at risk for contracting HIV. As a result only 29.4% had ever been tested for HIV.

CONCLUSION: Coexistence among college students of both misconceptions about the mode of HIV/AIDS transmission and denial about their vulnerability to contract this disease underscores the need for a proactive approach to address these challenges facing our youths.

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