Less than half of the adolescent population in Guyana between ages 15 and 19 has a comprehensive knowledge on HIV/AIDS, the United Nations Children Fund Situation Analysis of Children and Women 2016 said.
The report indicated that one of the most important prerequisites for reducing the rate of HIV infection is accurate knowledge of how HIV is transmitted and strategies for preventing transmission. It stated that a large majority of the women and men aged 15-49 have heard of AIDS – 98 per cent and 97 per cent, respectively, however the percentage of those who know of both main ways of preventing HIV transmission – having only one faithful uninfected partner and using a condom every time – was 75 per cent for women and 74 per cent for men.
It highlighted that less than half of the adolescent population between 15 and 19 years (47.7 per cent for women, and 33.2 per cent for men) have comprehensive knowledge on HIV and AIDS—which is that they are aware that consistent use of a condom during sexual intercourse and having just one uninfected faithful partner can reduce the chance of getting HIV and a healthy-looking person can have HIV.
It stated further that these persons are not able to reject the two most common local misconceptions about transmission/prevention of HIV in the country.
“As a matter of fact, among all the age groups in the research, the group between 15 and 19 for both men and women has the smaller rate of comprehensive knowledge,” it said, noting that for the population between 15 and 49 years, comprehensive knowledge on HIV is also small: 55.6 per cent for women and 48.6 per cent for men.
It highlighted that comprehensive knowledge was particularly low among both women and men living in Region 5 (28 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively) as well as those living in households with an Amerindian household head (39 per cent and 34 per cent, respectively). In Region 9, the comprehensive knowledge of men aged 15 to 49 is higher than women. In all other regions, and all other socioeconomic characteristics men know less on HIV/AIDS than women.
Notably, it stated that despite the fact that 81 per cent of the girls between ages 15 and 19, and 71 per cent of adolescent boys in the same age group know a place to get tested for HIV, the rates for those who were actually tested are much smaller—30.6 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively.
So far, the Public Health Ministry and the Ministry of Education have been collaborating in two policies aimed at secondary school students—the school health and nutrition and HIV/AIDS policy was disseminated in 2009 and the Health and Family Life Education programme, which focuses on reducing teenage pregnancy and HIV prevention.
The Health and Family Life Education programme 2013 evaluation revealed that if the intervention is to have greater positive impact, much more work needs to be done in the area of teacher training; learning materials; teacher attitudes towards sensitive topics; parental involvement; whole school approach; and effective referral systems.