AJRH Article Highlight: HIV/AIDS-related knowledge and misconceptions among women attending government-owned antenatal clinics in Gwagwalada Area Council of Abuja, Nigeria

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African women and girls still bear a disproportionate burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Current global estimates on HIV/AIDS show that about 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS and nearly half of this number is women. About 67% of all persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are in sub-Saharan Africa, while three-quarters of all women living with HIV/AIDS globally are in sub-Saharan Africa. (WHO).

And in spite of the intense HIV education campaigns in  the country, it is not known to what extent these messages have been assimilated and utilized and whether issues of misconceptions concerning HIV transmission and prevention have been adequately addressed during these campaigns or not.

A recent study carried out in Gwagwalada Area council of Abuja, Nigeria showed that significant misconception concerning HIV transmission still existed. Although general awareness about the existence of HIV/AIDS was high (92.8%), only 52.1% knew that AIDS was caused by a virus while 41.4% were not aware that AIDS had no cure. 53.6% had the misconception that HIV infected persons always look and feel sick

Knowledge on some other very important aspects of HIV transmission such as breastfeeding and protection using condom was also low. Other misconceptions about the cause of HIV/AIDS identified were witchcraft, punishment from God and the fact that AIDS is being inflicted on Africans by the Americans. Most of these misconceptions were held by women with little or no education. These misconceptions were potentially dangerous because mothers who had these wrong beliefs were unlikely to take the right preventive measures and were likely to isolate and discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS.

Recommendations

1. Improving knowledge on these aspects of HIV transmission is critical to the control and prevention of HIV transmission in women.

2. Significant efforts should be made to improve female education, especially at the rural areas.

3. Leaders of faith-based organisations (e.g. imams and pastors) should be used as advocates. Quashing religious related misconceptions via these outlets are more effective.

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