Indian Adolescents Virtually
In The Dark About AIDS

The Hindu

NEW DELHI - There is a woefully inadequate knowledge among Delhi's adolescents and specifically among the 15-24 age group on how the AIDS virus is transmitted, concludes a behavioural surveillance survey carried out by the Delhi State AIDS Control Society of the Government of Delhi.
Conducted by the Operation Research Group, an independent evaluation agency, the survey covered 3,832 respondents in the 15-49 age group of which the adolescents formed a part. The findings reveal that 88.2 per cent of the respondents had never heard of HIV/AIDS. Interestingly, low awareness rates were recorded among men than women.
While 86 per cent of the people surveyed were aware that HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through blood transfusion, only 23.5 per cent had correct knowledge on HIV transmission. A majority of them were found to be aware of the benefit of consistently using a condom. "The adolescents as a group were found to be not knowledgeable of several aspects of HIV/AIDS,'' says the study report.
Interestingly, the results of the behaviour surveillance survey are in accordance with international trends as a recent UNICEF report has also found that those who belong to the 15-24 age group in different countries of the world lack knowledge of HIV transmission and prevention. It has argued in favour of re- orienting the entire AIDS intervention strategy in terms of empowering the 15-24 age group calling it as an "Opportunity in Crisis''.
Based on the Delhi survey, the State AIDS Control Society has concluded that there exists a definite need of information, education and communication among the adolescents on an urgent basis. "Though they constitute a low risk group, they are unaware of AIDS and in fact, want to know more details,'' the report points out. "Once this group is informed and motivated, they can act as change agents for their own family, peer group as well as community at large''.
As a first step, the Society is planning to expand its school AIDS education programme to another 500 schools in the Capital. Already, 450 schools in all districts of Delhi have been targeted through as many as 15 NGOs. By 2003, all the higher secondary and senior secondary schools in the State will be covered, assert the Delhi State AIDS Control Society officials. Under the programme, there is also a plan to publish a newsletter entitled "Chetna'' with the help of students volunteers.
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