HIV knowledge and sexual risk behavior among street adolescents in rehabilitation centres in Kinshasa; DRC: gender differences
Background: Street children, common in Africa, are increasingly vulnerable to alcohol and drugs of abuse and lack access to both healthcare and knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Hence, this study assessed the level of knowledge about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, among street adolescents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Methods: A random sampling of 200 street children (10-25 years of age) were selected from 17 rehabilitation centres in Kinshasa, and a structured questionnaire was administered to all participants in their respective centres. High knowledge, knowledge or awareness of condom was defined when a participant gave more than 67% of correct responses. Chi square analysis was used to test differences between sexes. Results: The knowledge level of respondents was high. 54.3% of males and 45.7% of girls have heard about HIV), and few participants cited unprotected sex as mode of transmission (42.9% for males and 57.1% for females). A high number of children reported a previous sexual experience. Satisfying a natural bodily need was the main reason for having sex. However, the use of condoms is still low in both genders (26.2 versus 59.3%, p<0.01). Neither gender reported a reason why they are not using a condom. Conclusion: This study highlights the high knowledge about HIV, which contrasts with low condom use and high past sexual experiences with the high number of sexual partners and sexual contacts. Policies targeting these findings are warranted to reverse such trends.
Key words: Condoms, Knowledge, Sexual risk behavior, street children, Kinshasa, Congo