Dimensions of AIDS Knowledge and Risky Sexual Practices: A Study of Northern Thai Males

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The relation between AIDS-related knowledge and sexual risk-taking for a sample of young men living in northern Thailand was examined. Data were collected during the fall of 1991. The sample of 1472 men includes university students, soldiers, store clerks, and laborers. Recent commercial sex patronage was variable among the subgroups, and consistent condom use among these recent patrons was far from universal Several important misunderstandings among our respondents regarding the AIDS virus were identified. These misconceptions were most common among men of relatively low socioeconomic status (laborers and soldiers). Factor analysis identified four distinct domains of AIDS knowledge among the student and soldier groups: knowledge about the mechanics of contagion, knowledge about the consequences of infection, knowledge about appropriate strategies for avoiding the virus, and knowledge regarding inappropriate strategies for avoiding the virus. In multivariate logistic regression, knowledge about inappropriate strategies and knowledge about contagion were the only two domains predictive of recent commercial sex patronage: Men with a relatively good understanding regarding the inefficacy of inappropriate strategies and the mechanics of contagion had lower odds of recent commercial sex patronage compared with men who had a relatively poor understanding of these domains of AIDS knowledge. In the condom use analysis, knowledge about both appropriate and inappropriate strategies was predictive of consistent condom use among recent commercial sex patrons. Thus programs should attempt to improve knowledge about strategies for avoiding the virus and the mechanics of contagion. Special efforts should be made to debunk existing myths about the perceived effectiveness of inappropriate strategies.

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