HIV/AIDS fatalism may impact on individuals’ health-seeking behaviour and HIV-prevention efforts. This descriptive study measured levels of HIV/AIDS fatalism and documented HIV/AIDS beliefs and practices among a sample of Gabonese and Malians living in Gabon, West Africa. The Powe Fatalism Inventory–HIV/AIDS version was used to measure levels of fatalism, while a short-answer survey was used to document personal beliefs and behaviours related to HIV and AIDS among 160 people in Gabon. The mean score of HIV/AIDS fatalism for the total sample was 6.8 on a 15-point scale. Malians had a more fatalistic outlook than Gabonese (mean scores 9.4 versus 5.3), Muslims were more fatalistic than persons of other religions (mean scores 9.2 versus 5.3), while healthcare providers were less fatalistic than non-providers (mean scores 3.8 versus 7.4). People that did not believe that HIV/AIDS is a punishment from God had a lower mean score of fatalism than those who did. Most of the sample believed that AIDS is a real disease, and most did not think that only immoral people discuss HIV and AIDS. The HIV-prevention indicators that related to lower scores of fatalism included knowing HIV-positive people, having had more years of formal education, a willingness to disclose one’s HIV status (if known), and experience of HIV/AIDS education. Respondents who had tested for HIV were no less fatalistic than those who had never tested. The findings provide data from a part of the world where HIV/AIDS beliefs have rarely been documented. The results indicate a need for additional studies on correlations between HIV/AIDS fatalism, HIV-prevention behaviours, and religious belief systems.
Keywords: attitudes; disclosure; HIV prevention; Mali; Powe Fatalism Inventory; questionnaires; religion; West Africa
African Journal of AIDS Research 2010, 9(2): 125–133