Objectives: To assess the level of HIV-related knowledge, as well as high-risk behaviour and attitudes towards HIV, in a group of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) recruits.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Tempe military base in Bloemfontein.
Subjects: Three hundred and thirty-nine recruits from one company.
Outcome measures: HIV-related knowledge, attitudes and practices based on a self-administered questionnaire.
Results: All of the recruits were male, and most of them (81.4%) were black. The majority of recruits (98.5%) were between 18 and 24 years old. They had a good level of knowledge regarding HIV and AIDS, with more than 80% giving a correct response in most cases. However, several important misconceptions regarding HIV/AIDS and its transmission still exist. Furthermore, several recruits still practised high-risk behaviour, such as not using condoms with casual or new partners. Most obtained their knowledge regarding HIV/AIDS from schools (34.8%), health and social services (27.1%) and the printed media (17.7%), while only 5.2% stated that they learnt about HIV/AIDS from the SANDF education programmes.
Conclusion: Efforts towards initiating behaviour changes in military recruits should be intensified, and if necessary education programmes should be adapted to facilitate achievement of this goal.