Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

An Assessment of the Knowledge, Attitudes, and Risk Perceptions of Pharmacy Students regarding HIV/AIDS

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

An Assessment of the Knowledge, Attitudes, and Risk Perceptions of Pharmacy Students regarding HIV/AIDS

Article excerpt


Since (AIDS) was first diagnosed in the United States in 1981, it remains the leading killer of humans, with 90% of all infected cases occurring in the developing world and the number of newly infected cases rising every year. The major causes of increasing HIV infection include unprotected sexual contact, injection drug use, contaminated blood transfusion, mother-to-child transmission (prenatal and while breastfeeding), and occupational exposure among health care workers). (1)

The first 3 cases of HIV in Malaysia were diagnosed in 1986, and the rise in HIV/AIDS has continued unabated. The number of deaths diagnosed as AIDS has risen from 14 in 1990 to 7,195 in December 2004. Obviously, the best chance of controlling the epidemic rests with a well-educated and well-trained cadre of health care providers. Steady growth of the HIV epidemic has stemmed not from lack of preventive strategies but from failure to use the most highly effective tools available to slow the spread of HIV. (2)

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) coordinates many efforts and resources in cooperation with governments and nongovernmental organizations throughout the world to help minimize the spread of the infection, as well as provide medication for patients already infected. In this context, health care professionals have been encouraged to care for HIV/AIDS patients and conduct counseling on safety measures that minimize the rate of infection. This involvement also has compelled health care professionals to scrutinize their own practice for ways to keep up-to-date with current knowledge of prevention and treatment modifications of HIV. In the same regard, health care students must receive improved training. Many surveys have attempted to assess knowledge, attitudes, and practices, or behavior among Malaysians--particularly youths--about HIV/AIDS thus far, most studies have been based on purposive samples that cannot be generalized to the Malaysian population as a whole. Among published studies, a relatively high level of awareness of HIV/AIDS has been reported among the Malaysian people in various locations throughout the country and among select high-risk groups, notably sex workers, intravenous drug user, and transsexuals. Levels of knowledge were found to be higher (more than 90%) among adolescents enrolled in school compared to adolescents who had left school. (16,17)

Pharmacists are at low occupational risk for contracting HIV/AIDS, since they have less exposure to HIV/ AIDS patients than do medical professionals. Nevertheless, pharmacy students must learn about all aspects of treatment including infection control for HIV/ AIDS patients and others with infectious communicable diseases.

Further, as the rising number of newly infected patients makes clear, pharmacy and other health care students will need to stay knowledgeable and aware of HIV/AIDS. Much research from around the world has indicated gaps in students' knowledge about HIV transmission and treatment availability. Moreover, students hold negative attitudes and risk perceptions that could become barriers in their eventual professional treatment of HIV/AIDS patients.

Many interventions in educational and practical programs in different parts of the world have shown promising outcomes. It is not clear that Malaysian pharmacists know any more than their foreign counterparts about HIV/ AIDS. We must then also ask whether Malaysian pharmacy students are ready and willing to treat the growing HIV/AIDS patient population. This study evaluated the knowledge, attitudes, and risk perceptions among University Sains Malaysia final-year pharmacy students about HIV/AIDS, identifying areas of misconceptions, gaps in knowledge, and conclusions on the basis of outcomes. We hope that the results of the proposed study will help the institutions implement educational interventions to improve HIV/AIDS understanding among health care students. …

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