Knowledge, attitudes and sexual practices regarding Hiv/Aids among the Eritrean Military
AbstractObjective: Eritrea is a small country situated in the Horn of Africa with an HIV prevalence of 2.4% among pregnant women in 2005. Approximately 200 000 young, productive members of the population of 5.5 million are mobilised in the army through National Service conscription. Most members of the military are young, sexually active people, a category inclined towards high-risk sexual behaviour putting them at risk of sexually transmitted and HIV infection.
Methods: A cross-sectional study using a random sample of 836 members of a representative category of the Eritrean army was conducted, utilising a self-completed questionnaire designed to assess knowledge, attitudes, behaviour and perceptions about sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.
Results: While the survey showed high levels of knowledge and relatively positive attitudes and beliefs about sexually transmitted infections including HIV, some inconsistencies in attitudes were discernible. Some respondents retained misconceptions about protection methods. While most respondents were prepared to undergo voluntary counselling and testing, fewer were prepared to disclose their status and judgemental attitudes existed toward those living with HIV. While condoms appear available and accessible, there needs to be encouragement of regular and consistent use of condoms, particularly with those with more than one partner.
Conclusions: The Eritrean military has initiated HIV/AIDS education programmes and improved access to condoms. These programmes, however, need to be strengthened especially around attitudes to those infected with HIV. The development and improvement of partnerships between government, non-governmental and international organisations is essential to strengthen the fight against HIV/AIDS in Eritrea