Introduction. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) have been significant global health issues for almost 40 years. However, stigma and discrimination against individuals with HIV/AIDS hinder testing, disclosure, and adherence to prevention and treatment strategies. Future healthcare workers’ knowledge and attitudes toward people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are important for better care and prevention, necessitating appropriate education and training.
The objective of the study was to examine the general HIV/AIDS knowledge among students of health sciences in the Republic of North Macedonia and to assess medical students’ overall stigmatising attitude towards PLWHA.
Materials and methods. A prospective cross-sectional study was conducted during November-December 2022, surveying 743 medical sciences students in the Republic of North Macedonia with a 4-item questionnaire. The questionnaire collected demographic data, assessed knowledge, and explored stigmatizing attitudes toward PLWHA. Data underwent accuracy checks using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, and reliability analysis used Cronbach’s α coefficient.
Results. Among participants (77.7% female, median age 22 years), understanding of HIV/AIDS features related to contagiosity, prevention, and therapy was evident. No significant differences were observed between genders, age, ethnicity, and religion. However, approximately half were unaware of preventing vertical HIV transmission, and over half were unaware of timely postexposure prophylaxis importance. Over half of the participants rejected statements indicating HIV stigma and discrimination.
Conclusion. Students showed a good knowledge of HIV/AIDS transmission, diagnosis, and prevention but lacked understanding of treatment. Continuous education and training are essential. Encouragingly, no evidence of stigmatizing attitudes toward PLWHA was found among medical sciences students.
Keywords: HIV/AIDS, knowledge, attitudes, stigma, medical education.
Address for correspondence:
Department of Epidemiology and Disaster Medicine, Faculty of Public Health, Medical University of Plovdiv, Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Address: Blvd Vasil Aprilov 15A, Plovdiv, Bulgaria