India-US collaboration to prevent adolescent HIV infection

Family perceptions about adolescents’ vulnerability to HIV/AIDS
The second theme that emerged from the focus groups focused on the extent to which families perceived that adolescents were vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. In general, adolescents did not believe that HIV/AIDS was something that directly affected them. Although a small number of boys indicated that HIV/AIDS could occur outside of urban areas, the majority believed that HIV/AIDS occurred mostly in cities.

One boy explained how there are “bad” boys in the city and “good” boys in the village. This feeling was summarized by one male adolescent who said that he felt there was limited possibility of HIV spreading in the local community. In both the male and female focus groups, youth reported that they did not know anyone who was living with HIV/AIDS.

Like their adolescent children, mothers did not readily identify knowing anyone with HIV/AIDS. Although several mothers stated that HIV/AIDS could affect “anyone”, another stated, “Where it [HIV/AIDS] is where it is not, we do not have any idea.” In addition, mothers echoed the sentiments of their adolescent children about who became infected with HIV/AIDS. One mother said, “One who goes ‘wrong’ will get the disease.”

In contrast to the mother and adolescent focus groups, a number of fathers spoke about their personal experiences knowing people affected by HIV/AIDS. One father shared the story of a friend who had contracted HIV via a sexual relationship with a woman:

There was someone I knew who visited another women and he started getting fever regularly. Later on we came to know that he has AIDS and he died. I know this because this happened in front of us.

Still another shared the story of a friend who had travelled from the village to Mumbai:

There was a friend of mine, he used to roam around, used to go to Mumbai. He must have been doing such things there so he got AIDS. Later, doctor told that he had got AIDS. After that, for some time he tried, but later he passed away.

Finally, another father shared his familiarity with HIV/AIDS via his work as a truck driver, “I am a driver and these things [AIDS] happen earlier to us.”

Unlike their adolescent children, both mothers and fathers believed that their children were at risk for HIV. Perceptions of adolescent vulnerability were most often discussed in the context of economic constraints that forced children to seek work in neighbouring villages or cities.

Mothers recognized that they could not effectively monitor their children’s whereabouts when they left home for work and believed this opened the door for sexual behaviour that could expose their children to HIV. Fathers, who had also discussed their own experiences migrating for work or knowing other adults who had migrated for work, believed that travelling to other villages and cities for economic opportunities placed their children at risk for HIV, “They are outside and they feel it is a need so they have sexual relationships.” one father said.

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