Young people in sub-Saharan Africa constitute an important group for HIV prevention efforts. Determining their exposure to HIV/AIDS information and communication and their perceived credibility of information sources is imperative to the development of interventions. However, the majority of studies on this topic have been conducted among school-based populations, with few focused on those out of school or on comparing the two groups. A structured face-to-face interview was completed by 993 young people out of school, between the ages of 13 and 18, in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania; additionally, the questionnaire was self-administered by 1 007 students attending either their last year of primary or first year of secondary school. Significant factors associated with the frequency of exposure to HIV/AIDS information and frequency of communication about HIV/AIDS included urban/rural location, sex, socio-economic status, and educational attainment. Both groups ranked the radio as the most frequent source of HIV/AIDS information. The in-school group reported significantly more frequent exposure to all sources of HIV/AIDS information and they communicated more frequently about the topic than did the out-of-school group. Among both groups, exposure to HIV/AIDS information occurred more frequently than discussing the topic. The in-school group gave high credibility ratings to medical doctors, the radio and parents as sources of information, while the out-of-school group attributed the most credibility to the mass media. Irrespective of school attendance, the young people ranked friends, parents and doctors as preferred communicators of sexual and reproductive health information. Interventions that address the determinants of educational attainment are needed, as well as ones specifically intended to reach girls or those out of school. The preferences and credibility rankings for sources of HIV/AIDS information suggest the need for evidence-based programmes that utilise peers and promote the involvement of parents or doctors. Particularly needed are interventions that explicitly aim to stimulate discussion among young people about HIV/AIDS and that foster the development of interpersonal skills.
Keywords: communication, East Africa, health interventions, health knowledge, HIV prevention, out-of-school, sampling procedures, sexual and reproductive health
African Journal of AIDS Research 2009, 8(2): 213–222