Background: Healthcare providers have faced potentially lethal infection risks throughout history but HIV/AIDS has motivated doctors and healthcare workers to address occupational health risks. Exposure to blood-borne diseases during clinical training of medical students raises medical, legal, ethical and professional issues. Students and house officers are at greater risk of sustaining blood-borne disease exposure as they are inexperienced in handling equipment used in minor clinical procedures. A higher risk is involved while handling HIV/AIDS patients.
Aim: The aim of the present study was to examine the knowledge, attitude and risk perception of first year medical students in Barbados to HIV/AIDS.
Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional survey was carried out among first year medical students to assess their awareness of the disease and its prevention. In a classroom setting, a questionnaire eliciting information about the etiopathogenesis of the disease, precautions to be taken in handling HIV/AIDS patients, disinfection and post exposure prophylaxis was circulated.
Results: The response analyses showed that majority of students (70.7% - 96.7%) were aware of the etiopathogenesis, mode of transmission and precautions of HIV/AIDS. Few students (4% - 10%) knew how the virus could be deactivated and the types of high-level disinfectant agents used. Most (60.7% - 86.7%) knew the correct methods for collection and transportation of blood samples. None were aware of the exact management and notification of accidental exposure. Willingness to work with HIV/AIDS patients was reduced to 22.7% but increased to 30% if proper training was provided. Few students (10%) were aware of the ‘universal precautions”. All students were aware of the concept of safe sex.
Conclusion: Our findings highlight the need for a training programme in “universal precautions” for medical students to help minimize the risk and improve knowledge, skill and competency in treating HIV/AIDS patients before they reach their clinical years.