Low awareness of drug-associated HIV transmission among children of sex workers

PUNE: A study undertaken by the D Y Patil Medical College, Pimpri, has found that the children of sex workers are relatively well informed about HIV, causing decreased immunity and its spread through unsafe sex. However, the study underlines the fact that the children have very little awareness about the transmission of HIV   through other routes like infected syringes, needles etc. This, researchers say, is an important gray area that needs to be addressed.

Source: Times of India

PUNE: A study undertaken by the D Y Patil Medical College, Pimpri, has found that the children of sex workers are relatively well informed about HIV, causing decreased immunity and its spread through unsafe sex. However, the study underlines the fact that the children have very little awareness about the transmission of HIV   through other routes like infected syringes, needles etc. This, researchers say, is an important gray area that needs to be addressed.

“The environment in which the children of sex workers live exposes them to drug pushers, drug peddlers and the sharing of needles for injecting drugs. These are potential risk factors for the transmission of HIV infection. The study assumes significance as the thrust has always been only on creating awareness on avoiding transmission through unprotected sex,” said paediatrician Sharad Agarkhedkar, professor and head of the department of paediatrics at the D Y Patil Medical College under whose guidance the study was carried out.

The study, undertaken by paediatrician Sampada Tambolkar and Aishani Shah, a third-year MBBS student was funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). It was carried out between June and September last year and published in the Australian Medical Journal in June 2010.

“The objective of the study was to assess knowledge, attitude and practices of adolescent students of commercial sex workers in relation to HIV/AIDS and give recommendations about important issues identified during the study,” said Tambolkar.

Adolescent children in the age group of 10 to 15 years were selected for the study. They were given a pre-standardised questionnaire in which they had to answer the questions. Their anonymity was assured. The questionnaire was translated into Marathi by experts, for students.

“There were 36 girls and 14 boys who took part in the study. It was a descriptive study and there were no comparisons. The main point that emerged was the lack of knowledge about the spread of HIV and the means of acquiring the infection,” said Shah.

“The social status of commercial sex workers widely affects their children. These children are exposed to the problems from a very young age and it is important to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS among them,” said Tambolkar . “The particular adolescent age group was chosen because they are largely exposed to unsafe sex and also to other potentially dangerous objects of transmitting infection like infected syringes, needles etc.”

Sharing other important findings, she said, “The general awareness on the physical aspects of growing up among them was good. However, awareness about menstrual issues was poor though most of the participants in the study were females.”

“The knowledge of ante-natal care (medical care of women during pregnancy) and its benefits were not adequately known. Awareness about teenage pregnancy and its hazards was good. They were relatively well informed about HIV causing decreased immunity and its spread by unsafe sex but they were ignorant about its spread by infected syringes, needles etc. This is important as these children may be exposed to such things due to the environment in which they live,” said Shah.

The researchers found that the attitude towards females was not very encouraging. “A majority of the children thought that major decisions in the family need to be taken by the male members. Only 14% felt that it was incorrect to proceed with antenatal sex detection and most felt that trying cigarette once would not lead to addiction,” said Tambolkar.



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