"I Actually Don't Know What HIV Is": A Mixed Methods Analysis of College Students' HIV Literacy

Diseases. 2020 Jan 2;8(1):1. doi: 10.3390/diseases8010001.


Objective: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) remains a major public health issue with young adults facing a disproportionately higher rate of the burden. Our goal was to address the current literacy related to HIV, including biomedical prevention methods and barriers to care, such as cultural factors, from a sample of college students.

Methods: We conducted a convergent parallel mixed methods analysis where both qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analyzed separately. A thematic analysis was conducted to assess qualitative results, while descriptive statistics were conducted to assess quantitative survey results.

Results: HIV literacy was limited, with several participants reporting that they did not understand what HIV meant. While the majority knew the use of condoms, knowledge of other biomedical prevention methods was limited, as was the understanding the risk factors of HIV, with participants noting sharing a toilet seat and promiscuity as risk factors. Self-efficacy for HIV prevention was low among participants with many reporting that cultural barriers prevented discussion of risky behaviors and prevention methods in their families and social groups.

Conclusion: Targeted, culturally sensitive, health education initiatives are needed to understand the high, low, or no risks of HIV as well as address stigmas related to HIV.

Keywords: HIV; STIs; attitude; college students; knowledge; literacy; prevention; self-efficacy.