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HIV/STD Knowledge, Attitudes, and Risk Behaviors Among Hmong-American Adolescents

February 4, 2000

A new study in the Journal of Sex Education and Therapy examines self-reported HIV/STD knowledge, attitudes, and risk behaviors among Hmong-American adolescents.

The Hmong are native to southern China and southeast Asia. It is estimated that 150,000 Hmong now live in the United States. Much of the information available about HIV/STD defines Asian, including the Hmong, as a homogeneous group despite differences in language, religion, and customs. Therefore, little information is available on HIV/STD knowledge, attitudes, and risk factors specific to the Hmong community.

For this study, researchers surveyed 299 Hmong-American students, ages 12-21, who took part in a culturally specific HIV/STD prevention program offered by public junior and senior high schools in St. Paul, MN, during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 school years. Approximately 20% of the Hmong-American students in these schools chose to participate in these programs.


Results

Knowledge about HIV

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Participants completed a questionnaire that included 13 true/false statements about HIV/AIDS.

  • 87% of participants responded correctly when asked if "people can get a sexually transmitted disease by having sex."

  • 80% of participants responded correctly when asked if "you can get AIDS if you use the same toilet seat or phone as someone who has AIDS."

  • 48% of participants responded correctly when asked if "one way to prevent the spread of HIV is to have sex with only one partner."

  • 71% of participants responded correctly when asked if "Hmong people don't have to practice safer sex because it is very difficult for them to get HIV."

  • 50% of participants responded correctly when asked if "you eat a lot of hot peppers, you will not get AIDS."

  • 30% of participants responded correctly when asked if "in Laos, there is a tree that can keep you from catching the AIDS virus if you make tea from the leaves and drink the tea."


Attitudes Toward HIV/STD

Participants were also asked to complete a questionnaire that included 10 attitude items that were scored on a scale ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree." For each attitude item, researchers defined the desired response as that which was "most in line with HIV/STD prevention goals."

  • 87% of participants expressed the desired attitude in response to the statement "It is smart to use a condom when having sex."

  • 67% of participants expressed the desired attitude in response to the statement "It's okay for teenagers to refuse to have sex."

  • 62% of participants expressed the desired attitude in response to the statement "It's okay for teenagers to have sex without a condom if they both say they're virgins."

  • 47% of participants expressed the desired attitude in response to the statement "Condoms are quite disgusting and I wouldn't want to touch one."

  • 54% of participants expressed the desired attitude in response to the statement "I do not want to get tested for HIV because the Hmong community would find out."

  • 44% of participants expressed the desired attitude in response to the statement "Hmong people whose ancestors were 'bad' are in great danger of getting AIDS."


AIDS Risk Behaviors

  • *7% of participants reported having engaged in sexual intercourse. Of these, 63% reported always using a condom during sexual intercourse and 75% reported having had only one sexual partner.

  • * 77% of participants reported knowing how to use a condom.

The findings suggest that Hmong-American students have relatively high overall knowledge and desirable attitudes about HIV/AIDS. In addition, they have low levels of sexual risk behaviors -- lower than other Asian groups.

The authors note, however, that Hmong-American adolescents were significantly less likely to answer the culturally specific knowledge and attitudes items correctly. They suggest that this could indicate that while the adolescents can learn new information, it does not necessarily replace older, culturally imbued beliefs.

The authors recommend that HIV/STD prevention programs working with refugee and immigrant communities should first investigate the culturally specific knowledge and attitudes about HIV/STD among each ethnic group, and then develop distinct, culturally specific materials for more -- and less -- acculturated individuals within these communities. Such measures would ensure that prevention materials contain information that is not only accurate, but also explores cultural beliefs and their implications on personal and community health.

For more information:

B. E. Robinson, et al, "HIV/STD Knowledge, Attitudes, and Risk Behaviors in Hmong-American Adolescents: An Unstudied Population," Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, vol. 24, nos. 1&2, pp. 37-46.


Resources

A Healthier Future for Our Communities is a calendar developed by Intercultural Family Services, Inc. in collaboration with other organizations as part of the Asian/Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS and Community Health Awareness Project.

The calendar was designed to create community awareness of HIV/AIDS, overcome language and cultural barriers to HIV prevention, change attitudes about the risk of infection, improve knowledge of available services, encourage volunteerism, and promote the health and well being of Asian/Pacific Islander-Americans.

Each month of the calendar focuses on a specific topic about HIV/AIDS awareness such as HIV transmission, sexually transmitted diseases, testing and counseling, test centers, protection, and Hepatitis B. Single copies are free.

For more information:

Intercultural Family Services, Inc., 4225 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, Phone: 215/386-1298, Fax: 215/386-9348, Web site: http://www.ifsinc.org, E-mail:ifsi@ifsinc.org



  
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This article was provided by Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It is a part of the publication SHOP Talk: School Health Opportunities and Progress Bulletin.
 
See Also
More Statistics on Young People and HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

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