Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Evaluating Health Promotion Leaflets' Impact on Young People in Romania

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Evaluating Health Promotion Leaflets' Impact on Young People in Romania

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The study aims to categorise and quantify the content of publicly available safer sex promotion leaflets in Romania, and to examine to what extent the content is reflected in young people's social representations of HIV/AIDS. A content analysis identified 56 semantic categories, with high inter-coder reliability. A free association task and a semi-structured questionnaire were used to elicit participants' social representations of HIV/AIDS (N=186).

Overall, the leaflets encouraged condom use, HIV testing and offered useful addresses for more information and professional assistance. Reflecting the traditionalism and religiosity of the country, the leaflets also promoted abstention before marriage and faithfulness, underlined the responsibility one should have not to infect the others, and drew attention on the dangers of sexual promiscuity and needle share.

Findings from the content analysis of health promotion leaflets were largely corroborated by participants' social representations of HIV/AIDS. However, while safer sex promotion leaflets strongly promoted condom use, HIV testing, faithfulness and abstention, respondents stressed the fatality of AIDS and the emotional facet of the disease. They reported not seeing themselves at risk of becoming HIV infected, while certain 'at-risk' groups were seen as main target for the disease. The findings suggest that while health promotion messages proved successful in conveying AIDS-related knowledge, they seem to fail influencing people's perception of vulnerability.

KEYWORDS: HIV/AIDS, social representation, health promotion messages, content analysis.

HIV/AIDS in Romania

The first HIV cases were reported in Romania in 1985 (5 cases). Significant discrepancies in past case reporting lead to difficulties in providing accurate assessments. The AIDS prevalence at the end of 2004 was 42.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, versus 38.95 AIDS cases per 100,000 at the end of 2003. By the end of 2005, there were 15,850 cumulative HIV/AIDS cases registered (UNAIDS, 2006). A particular feature of the epidemic in Romania is the major contamination of children in late 1980s through unscreened blood and blood products and the repeated use of contaminated needles. Over 7,000 of them are estimated to be living now, the majority entering their adult life (age group 16-18), which presents possible risks of HIV transmission to their partners and children, as well as issues around integration and acceptance by the community. In parallel, there has been a steady increase in HIV/AIDS incidence among young adults, related to heterosexual transmission, and, to a lesser extent, injected drug use. Parallel increases are evident for other sexually transmitted diseases. For example, The National Centre for Medical Statistics (2003) reported a 275% increase in infectious syphilis from 1989 to 2001 and a 550% increase in viral hepatitis B for the same period of time. The statistics of AIDS cases by mode of transmission show that the main mode of transmission is through blood transfusion (22.6%), followed by heterosexual transmission (7.8%). It is estimated that 1% of the population in the Bucharest area are injecting heroin, underlying a possible risk of a new epidemic outbreak (UNAIDS, 2006).

The HIV Prevention Campaign In Romania

Before 1990 HIV risk awareness was delivered sporadically, mainly by health care workers. The government's pro-natality policy made condom promotion impossible, as it also prevented conception. Other barriers obstructing HIV prevention programs were a lack of financial resources and AIDS-related stigma (Amirkhanian et al., 2004).

Since the end of Communism, however, a number of initiatives have been undertaken. In 1990 Romania signed the WHO convention related to children's rights and testing donated blood became compulsory. After 1990, together with the design and implementation of HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns, the government also re-evaluated the prevention programmes designed to tackle STDs and TBC (Duma, 1999). …

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