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HIV stigma starts young, but can be corrected, African schoolchildren's study shows
Gus Cairns, 2014-10-15 10:00:00

A study conducted among nearly 40,000 school students aged 12 to 14 in nine southern African countries shows that in some countries over a fifth of students would “avoid or shun” a friend who revealed they had HIV and that in three countries over a third of students believe that children living with HIV should not be allowed to continue to attend school.

These attitudes were most strongly associated with rural rather than urban living, poverty, having inaccurate beliefs about HIV and especially that HIV can be caught by casual contact, and lack of specific HIV education. Girls and older children were slightly less likely to have these discriminatory opinions, but not to the extent, the researchers comment, that gender-specific HIV education is indicated.

Discouragingly, schoolchildren were somewhat more likely to have discriminatory attitudes if they knew someone who had HIV. However, the questionnaire could not discover who these HIV-positive people were and the relationship they had to the children.