16th International Conference on AIDS
and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA)
4–8 December 2011
There are 33 million adolescents in Bangladesh, constituting roughly a quarter of the total population. This cohort represents the next wave of parents and leaders in Bangladesh. This population group does not have adequate reproductive health (RH) information and services. Population Council conducted a study to assess adolescents' knowledge of and attitude towards RH along with their service seeking behavior in ten geographical areas in Bangladesh, which included both qualitative and quantitative methods. Adolescents age 13 to 16 years were selected as the respondents of the study. The systematic sampling technique was used to select respondents for interviewing at least 100 adolescents from each location. Study findings suggest that knowledge about HIV and its transmission was higher among male adolescents than female and it was higher in urban areas. More than 93 percent of the male and 78 percent of the female adolescents knew or had heard about HIV. The proportion having correct knowledge on routes to HIV transmission was higher among the male adolescents than the female. More than 90 percent of the adolescents reported that non-sterile syringe and HIV-infected blood through which HIV can be transmitted. Almost 90 percent of the male and 77 percent of the female adolescents mentioned unsafe sex and multiple sex partners as the routes to HIV transmission. Despite having of knowledge on correct routes of transmission to HIV, yet a large number of the rural and urban adolescents had misconceptions about the routes to HIV transmission. For example, about one-fifth of the adolescents believed that HIV can be transmitted through kissing/hugging and mosquito/insect bite. The proportion having knowledge on prevention of HIV/AIDS was almost equal between male and female adolescents except use of condom during sex. Urban adolescents had better knowledge compared to rural adolescents, which was more pronounced in case of female adolescents. Alarmingly, a small number of adolescents were aware of non-HIV STIs. Only 25 percent of the male and 5 percent of the female adolescents knew STIs other than HIV. Among them, 31 percent of the male and 40 percent of the female adolescents could not mention a single way to prevent STIs. Knowledge on ways of STI prevention was better among the rural male adolescents compared to their urban counterpart. Large difference was observed between the responses of male and female adolescents about the visiting commercial sex worker. Only 20 percent of the male and 76 percent of the female adolescents considered masturbation safer than visiting sex worker, suggesting males adolescents were more likely to be engaged in risky sexual behavior. Efforts must be undertaken to remove prevailing misconceptions, improve knowledge about HIV and STIs and to provide RH services to adolescents.
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The Population Council welcomes Landis MacKellar as co-editor of Population and Development Review.