Globally, AIDS is well documented as both a disease and a development problem. This study seeks to identify the determinants of AIDS awareness within a rural, agrarian population from data collected in 1995 as part of a panel survey under BRAC-ICDDR,B Joint Research Project at Matlab. Among a wide variety of questions on their well-being were three related to AIDS knowledge. Bivariate analysis and multivariate techniques were used to determine predictors of AIDS awareness in the selected population. In multivariate analysis, the knowledge of AIDS was regressed on several selected variables using logistic regression. Next, in-depth interviews were carried out with a randomly selected group of 22 women chosen from the "AIDS aware" population. The principal dependent variable examined was AIDS awareness (having heard of AIDS or not). Of the total population of 3834 women and 2272 men, only 7.4% (256) of the women and 16.0% (364) of the men had heard of the disease AIDS. Of the 256 women who said they had heard of AIDS, 72.6% (or 184 women) said they did not know how one gets AIDS. Only 22.8% (or 59 women) knew that AIDS is spread by unsafe sex and 3.8% (7 women) knew contaminated needles spread it. This amounts to a useful AIDS knowledge in only 66 of the 3834 women surveyed, or roughly 1.7%. 80.1% (or 205 women) said they did not know how one could prevent AIDS, whereas only 1.6% (or 4 women) mentioned the use of condoms.
Of the 16% of the total male population who had heard of AIDS, 85.4% did not know how to prevent AIDS. Only 4.1% said that condoms help prevent the spread of AIDS while a greater number, 4.5%, though that there is an AIDS preventing medicine. The final model in regression analysis finds literacy, occupation of women, male support in the use of family planning and discussing family planning with neighbours to be the most influential predictors of both men and women’s AIDS awareness. Also, being from a male headed household was a strong negative predictor of AIDS awareness for both men and women. It nearly halved a woman’s odds of being AIDS aware and more than halved a man’s. The quotes from the in-depth interviews show the various misconceptions rural women carry about AIDS, its causes and effects.
In conclusion, it appears that the goal of increasing the rural population’s AIDS awareness in Bangladesh warrants programme, which improve literacy as well as male involvement in family planning discussion and decision-making. Programmes that increase community discussion of such taboo topics would also be useful. Finally, the community health workers should be trained to teach about AIDS, its risks, care and prevention.