The relationship among knowledge, perceived susceptibility, and social distance related to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
Eccles, Elizabeth H.
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Despite evidence that Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is not transmitted through casual contact, people continue to demonstrate behaviors which indicate a fear of casual-contact transmission. This has been identified as contributing to the social isolation experienced by people with AIDS. This study was undertaken to determine the relationships among AIDS Knowledge (AK), Perceived Susceptibility (PS) to casual-contact transmission of HIV and Social Distance (SO), or the degree of hesitancy to interact with people with AIDS in casual-contact situations. The study was conducted in a Vermont community; an area with a low incidence of AIDS. Sixty eight subjects, from a random, digit-dialing sampling technique, were interviewed by telephone. Instrumentation consisted of: an AIDS Knowledge Tool, a six-item tool to measure PS to casual-contact transmission of HIV, a six-item SD scale to measure the level of casual-contact at which the individual would hesitate to interact with a person with AIDS, and demographic information. The scales measuring PS and SD were developed by the investigator. A negative, significant relationship was observed between AK and PS, and a positive, significant relationship was found between PS and SD. The relationship between AK and SD did not reach significance levels. A subscale of 9 Transmission-Related AIDS Knowledge items was developed and was found to have a stronger, negative relationship with PS, and a negative, significant relationship with SD. It was concluded that the findings, despite the methodological limitations, warranted further study with a larger, more diverse sample and to further develop instrumentation. The association between TransmissionRelated AK and both PS and SD indicates that education programs, specifically related to transmission may impact people's fears of casual contact transmission and their distancing behavior.
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