Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sexual attitudes and risk in Lesotho

I've recently been working on a small survey on sexual attitudes amongst university students in Lesotho. I am part of the way verifying the quality of the data which have been entered into Excel and have noticed an interesting phenomenon.

One of the questions we have asked is:

Do you believe that condoms decrease the chance of catching HIV? Most people have answered 'yes' and then explained their answer by talking about the mixing of bodily fluids or touching of sexual organs. But a significant* number of people have responded 'no'.

Almost all reasons offered for responding 'no' are similar; something along the lines of 'condoms are not 100% effective' or 'condoms do not always work'. Either the question has been mis-interpreted (although not sure how) or else there is a lack of (intuitive) understanding about risk. That is, a significant number of people don't seem to be able to grasp the impact on the probability of infection of using a condom - they understand only that they are not 100% effective, and therefore decide that this is reason enough not to bother using them (always).

It would be interesting to know if a similar attitude could be called 'significant' in Europe/North America. Is anyone aware of any research to this effect? What could be done to change this mis-understanding?

*I don't yet know if this is statistically significant - the data are not yet completely verified or cleaned yet.

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