Saturday, April 2, 2016

Knowledge, Awareness and Behavior: HIV/AIDS and Disasters

African Americans are the most affected by HIV/AIDS. Both males and females continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. They are often drug users or participate in street/drug subculture. Recent weather disasters have required identification of knowledge, beliefs, conduct norms and behavior patterns that are HIV/AIDS risk factors for disaster survivors. This paper examines patterns of behavior and common practices related to HIV among disaster survivors.

Study background
Data for this paper come from a three year renewal project which focused upon the processes by which illicit drug markets were reformulated after disasters and practices of risk behaviors for HIV/AIDS. Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav and Ike presented the opportunity to examine the impact of disasters upon risky behavior among illicit drug users and sellers.

From 2010-2013 ethnographic study was conducted in New Orleans, Louisiana, Houston and Galveston, Texas. Staff completed in-depth interviews with 132 focal respondents of drug users and sellers. There were 57 focus groups with 243 focus group participants; 350 drug using/selling respondents completed a survey protocol (CAPI), organized around their experiences during the hurricanes.

In both cities respondents displayed knowledge about HIV, modes of transmission and knew that HIV infection can lead to AIDS. Knowledge about time between exposure and infection was mostly imprecise. Most respondents reported they had been tested for HIV multiple times. A large number of participants reported learning about HIV in school, older respondents (mid-40s to 60) reported their knowledge came from television or the streets. Participants expressed fatalistic attitudes toward HIV, believing the virus was fatal even with medication.

With the increase of disasters, more attention needs to be placed upon programs focused on drug consumers. Schools, clinics, public information sources, i.e., TV and radio can make understanding HIV/AIDS a priority through taking into consideration specific populations and making sure literature and other forms of information is adjusted to their understanding.

Full article at:

Eloise Dunlap, Director, National Development and Research Institutes, New York, USA;
*Corresponding author: Eloise Dunlap, Director, National Development and Research Institutes, Institute for Special Population Research, 71 West 23rd Street, 4th floor, New York, United States, Tel: 6466427358; Fax: 9174380894

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