Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Small Victories


I finished my study at the school about a week and a half ago. I presented the results to the Director and some of the professors. I also prepared a little “tool kit” of sorts for the professors to use in class based on my results and recommendations. Here is what I found:

Knowledge
Ø  HIV/AIDS transmission knowledge was very high, but knowledge of the exact mechanisms of transmission was low.
o   Students knew you can get HIV through unprotected sex, but not that HIV can be found in vaginal secretions and sperm.
Ø  Conception and contraception knowledge was low.
o   Majority of students did not know when a girl is most fertile and thought that the calendar and withdrawal methods were effective.
Ø  Condom knowledge high, but self-efficacy low.
o   Majority of students knew that condoms could prevent STIs and pregnancy, but they also thought that using an oil-based lubricant and using two condoms at once was okay.
Ø  Confusion over STI vs. pregnancy prevention
o   I asked students to list which contraception or STI prevention method they used the first time they had sex. Some people would say they used a condom to prevent STIs but used nothing to prevent pregnancy, and vice versa.
Attitudes
Ø  Family planning
o   In the boys’ focus group, the guys said that family planning was about more than spacing pregnancies. In fact, according to them, it’s about planning your whole life! They talked about needing to plan for your studies, getting a job, getting married, getting a house, and then also for kids. Not bad if you ask me.
Ø  Using condoms means you’re not faithful to your partner
Ø  It’s easy to get condoms but…
o   The good ones are expensive (lots of stories of inexpensive condoms breaking)
o   It’s embarrassing to buy them and people think you’re up to no good
o   If your parents find them, they’ll be pissed
Ø  Some parents talk to their kids about sex, but others say go ask your teacher
Ø  Sex happens early, often, and is frequently unprotected
Ø  When guys talk about forced sex, they talk about harassment and using sex to get something you want, but when girls talk about it, they talk about rape and incest
Ø  Reasons for not using a contraception method when you first have sex:
o   Most said they didn’t know about conception or were inexperienced and didn’t know how to use a condom
o   Only a small percentage said they didn’t want to use a method or were too caught up in the moment
Ø  Reasons for not using a STI prevention method:
o   Again, most said they didn’t know or lacked experience
o   A small percentage said they thought their partner couldn’t possibly have a STI
o   One person said he was in a hurry

Behavior

#
%
Already had sex
88
82.20%
       females
38
76.00%
       males
48
87.30%
Not had sex
18
16.80%
No response
1
0.90%

Average age at sexual debut
15.5
      females
16.8
      males
14.3
Minimum
7
Maximum
22
Mode
16
"Do not know"
1
No response
1
Contraception at sexual debut
#
%
Used method
45
51.10%
     females
25
65.80%
     males
19
39.60%
Did not use method
38
43.20%
Do not know
2
2.30%
No response
3
3.40%

STI prevention at sexual debut
#
%
Used method
44
50%
      females
22
57.9%
      males
19
39.6%
Did not use method
31
35.20%
Do not know
10
11.40%
No response
3
3.40%


This is just a sample of some of the questions to give you an idea of the general themes etc. Of course, the real challenge is going from research to action. Too often public health stays in the realm of research and planning and nothing ever really gets accomplished. We have all of these examples of “best practices” etc., and yet when it comes to actually implementing them, we’re sort of lost. I didn’t want to just hand over a mess of statistics and call it a day, so I prepared some in-class activities for the professors to use. The Director seemed very interested in the results and wanted more background information on adolescent health. When I returned to the school to give her some more educational materials I found through the WHO, she said she was planning to hold a camp this summer to talk with adolescents in the community about these topics. They frequently hold Bible study camps, but she said that the church needs to talk more about these issues, and she will talk to the Bishops about it. I’m going to help her prepare a curriculum she can use with the camp. I’m far from moving mountains over here, but I’ll take just about any movement I can get.

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