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Knowledge and attitudes about genital herpes and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome among future teachers

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  • This study measured knowledge and attitudes about genital herpes and human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in a sample of future teachers from the College of Education at Oregon State University. The objectives of the study were 1) to determine if students possess accurate knowledge about the two diseases; 2) to measure attitudes toward people with the two diseases; 3) to assess the relationship, if any, between knowledge and attitudes; 4) to compare knowledge and attitudes about genital herpes with knowledge and attitudes about HIV/AIDS; and 5) to compare knowledge and attitudes about genital herpes in 1990 to data from a similar study conducted in 1984. A convenience sample of 150 students was obtained from undergraduate classes in the College of Education during Spring Term 1990. Subjects completed self-administered questionnaires about either genital herpes or HIV/AIDS during class time. Data were gathered using four instruments: A knowledge test, two attitude measures, and a demographic data questionnaire. Statistical tests used for data analysis were chi square, Pearson's correlation coefficient, Student's t-test, two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), and repeated measures ANOVA. The significance level was .05. Knowledge scores on the HIV/AIDS test were quite high (mean score 88% correct), while the mean genital herpes knowledge score was relatively low (62% correct). Attitudes toward people with both genital herpes and HIV/AIDS were relatively accepting, but subjects were significantly more accepting toward people with genital herpes. The least accepting responses toward people with either disease occurred in regard to potentially sexual situations (e.g. dating, marriage). There was no gender difference in attitudes toward people with either disease. Attitudes were more positive in response to a vignette of a college student followed by a questionnaire, compared to responses made to a questionnaire only. Correlations were found between more knowledge and more accepting attitudes about both diseases. Finally, genital herpes knowledge scores were higher (mean score 62% correct) than scores from a similar study of genital herpes conducted in 1984 (mean score 57% correct). Attitudes toward people with genital herpes were more accepting in the 1990 sample than were attitudes in the 1984 sample. All findings reported here are statistically significant. Recommendations for future research and education among future teachers concerning sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) include 1) development of methods to transmit accurate information about STD's by personalizing these diseases and relating them to college students' experiences; 2) a research focus upon attitudes and perceptions about STD's among future teachers, including the issue of homophobia, and how these relate to behavior; and 3) thorough teacher preparation about STD's, focusing on accurate knowledge and impartial attitudes that allow this topic to be addressed effectively in the classroom. Future research among the general college student population should address 1) the relationship between knowledge, attitudes, perceptions, and behavior concerning STD's; 2) potential differences in responses made to a vignette followed by a questionnaire, compared to a questionnaire only; 3) students' source(s) of information about STD's, and level of trust in "scientific authority"; 4) possible interactions between religious influence and attitudes about STD's; 5) the existence of a stereotype of HIV/AIDS as a gay, male disease, and how this might affect attitudes and perceptions; 6) differences between males and females in terms of attitudes, especially with regard to homophobia; 7) the effectiveness of personalizing STD education to increase knowledge about and perceived susceptibility to STD's; 8) the interaction between societal values and personal values, and their effect on attitudes about STD's and sexual behavior.
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