Philippines / Knowledge: Survey reveals AIDS misconceptions persist among women

02 Feb, 2010
By: Dona Pazzibugan
Tags: education

MANILA, Philippines—Years of public awareness campaigns on HIV-AIDS or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome have not diminished prevalent misconceptions about the virus or the ailment even among well-educated women, a recent government survey found.

The 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) revealed that about two out of three women do not know that the HIV/AIDS virus can not be transmitted by sharing food with an HIV-positive person nor can it be transmitted through mosquito bites.

The survey, which was conducted among women 15 to 49 years old, found that only 34 per cent rejected these two most common misconceptions.

It found that only one out of five women has “comprehensive knowledge” about AIDS.

This means that they know that consistent condom use during sex and having just one HIV-negative and faithful partner can cut the risk of getting the virus, or that a healthy-looking person can have the virus, and that the virus cannot be transmitted by sharing food and by mosquito bites.

Even among college-educated women, only one out of three have a comprehensive knowledge of HIV-AIDS, the survey found.

Among those who did not have formal education, only three percent know how the AIDS virus is transmitted and how this could be prevented.

Even among women in the upper income class, only three out of 10 have comprehensive knowledge of HIV-AIDS. The survey found only one out of 100 among those in the lowest income class knew enough of HIV-AIDS.

Women in urban areas were less likely to have misconceptions than those in rural areas, the survey also showed.

Despite the misconceptions, women across regions have heard of AIDS except in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao where two out of five women had never heard of AIDS.

Misconceptions about the disease contribute not only to the discrimination and stigmatization of persons with HIV/AIDS, but also set back programs to prevent its spread.

Another misconception is that a person could be infected by hugging or shaking the hand of an HIV-positive person.

The  AIDS virus could be transmitted through unsafe sex, injected drugs use, contaminated blood transfusion, infected needle pricks and pre-natal infection or from an HIV-positive mother to her unborn child.

The Department of Health has sounded the alarm about a potential epidemic after 126 new cases of AIDS were recorded in December 2009, the highest number of cases reported within a month since the DOH started its AIDS registry in 1984.

This brought the total number of AIDS cases in 2009 to 835, the highest accumulation of cases within a single year in the last 25 years. So far, 4,424 AIDS cases have been recorded in the country since 1984.

The DOH noted that the main mode of transmission has shifted in recent years from heterosexual sex to homosexual sex among “men who have sex with men.” Most of the new cases are young men between 25 and 29 years old.

HIV-AIDS campaigns focus on behavior that reduce the risk of transmission, namely using condoms, limiting the number of sexual partners and abstinence or delaying sexual debut among the young. 

Nearly half of the women surveyed or 47 per cent did not know that using condoms and having only one uninfected sex partner limits the risk of HIV infection.

Knowledge of means of prevention is lower in rural areas and decreases according to educational level and wealth.

Among women with no education, nearly nine out of 10 did not know that using condoms and monogamy limits the risk of HIV infection, and nearly two out of 10 did not know that abstaining from sex reduces the risk.

But even among college-educated women, one out of three did not know that consistent use of condoms and sexual monogamy lowers the risk, and one out of four did not know that sexual abstinence reduces the risk.