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Knowledge, attitudes and perception of AIDS in rural Senegal: relationship to sexual behaviour and behaviour change.

Lagarde, Emmanuel; Pison, Gilles; Enel, Catherine

Objectives: To describe the determinants of 'at risk' sexual behaviour and perception of AIDS-related prevention messages in rural Africa.

Setting: A rural area in Southern Senegal.

Design: Cross-sectional study using a standardized questionnaire administered by local interviewers to 240 men and 242 women aged 15-59 years, randomly selected among the general population.

Results: Twenty-eight per cent of the sexually active men and 27% of the sexually active women declared at least one casual sexual partner in the 12 months preceding the interview. Among these, 27% of men and 30% of women declared having used a condom in most acts of casual intercourse. Seasonal migrants and divorced or widowed women were more likely to declare casual sex. Casual sex was motivated by material needs for 66% of the women who experienced it, and those of the women who reported casual sexual intercourse were less likely to feel at risk of AIDS [odds ratio (OR), 3.9; P=0.01] and were more optimistic about their future (OR, 3.6; P = 0.03). For men, the motivations explaining a change in sexual behaviour in order to avoid HIV infection included the perception of AIDS as a health problem (OR, 11; P = 0.004), the perception of the disease as serious (OR, 5.4; P = 0.001) and the feeling of personal risk of becoming HIV-infected (OR, 3.2; P = 0.02). Perceived skill in changing one's behaviour was strongly associated with declaration of past behaviour change for both men and women (men: OR, 3.4; P = 0.02; women: OR, 6.3; P = 0.0001).

Conclusion: Men and women exhibit two different patterns regarding their behaviour and perception towards AIDS. Material needs appear to be of importance for women, whereas perception of a real threat lead men to adopt protective behaviours. In the very area of this study, widowed and divorced women as well as male seasonal migrants are particularly exposed to HIV infection. They are characterized by a higher risk behaviour, a low rate of condom use and seldom declared any protective measures to avoid HIV infection.

(C) Lippincott-Raven Publishers.