Introduction: HIV/AIDS is a major public health problem with approximately 1600 new cases occurring every day. According to the global estimates by UNAIDS, the people living with HIV/AIDS was 33.4 million by the end of 2008, with 3.8 million being in South and South East Asia. In Malaysia, the introduction of HIV virus was estimated to be around early 1980's. Since then, according to the Ministry of Health Statistics, 87,710 confirmed HIV infected cases, 15,317 AIDS cases and 13,394 HIV/AIDS related deaths are reported by the end of 2009. Adults aged between 20 and 39 years constitute for more than half of the new HIV infections. Every day, more than 10 Malaysians are tested positive for HIV infection. Objective: The objective of this study was to assess the knowledge and attitude of HIV/AIDS infection among the medical students of Universiti Malaysia Sabah, a public medical school in Malaysia.
Method: This study was a cross sectional questionnaire based study conducted at the School of Medicine, Universiti Malaysia Sabah. A specifically designed questionnaire was distributed to all the medical students on the first day of the semester. The questionnaires regarding knowledge were focused on various methods of transmission, high risk behaviours and preventative measures. Attitude towards HIV/AIDS patients, sexual behaviours, condom usage, sex education and resource allocation for HIV/AIDS patients were assessed.
Result: A total of 155 medical studentsparticipated in this study, with the age ranging from 19 to 25 years. Majority gave correct responses for mode of transmission while only 60.6% had knowledge that HIV can be transmitted via kissing an infected person when oral ulcer is present. Concerning mother to child transmission, 72.3% responded that the transmission is in-utero and only 65.2% realized the transmission through breast milk. Regarding knowledge on high risk population for HIV infection, only 17.4% agreed for youth. 146 students (94.2%) had knowledge that HIV infection can be prevented by condom usage but only 69 students (44.5%) responded correctly the effectiveness of the condom. Majority of the respondents (83.2%) disagree for showing no sympathy towards HIV positive persons. Regarding various sexual behaviours, 43.2% and 35.5% approved for masturbation and oral sex respectively while 78.7% and 86.5% disagreed for anal sex and sex with changing partner respectively. 88 respondents (56.8%) agree for condom usage with every sexual encounter whereas 1 student believed that condom should never be used. Most of the students (98.7%) agreed for the need of sex education sessions. 90.3% did not believe that resource allocation for caring of HIV/AIDS patients is unworthy.
Conclusion: Even among the medical students, the knowledge of mother to child transmission through breast feeding is weak and most of them believe that transmission is mainly in utero. Only a small percentage of medical students regard the youth as one of the high risk populations for HIV infection. Majority of the students acknowledge that condom can be preventive of HIV infection but they did not know the extent of effectiveness of the condom usage. Furthermore, only 56.8% agree for condom usage with every sexual encounter. Based on the findings of this study, knowledge regarding mother to child transmission and condom usage must be more emphasized in the medical curriculum so that the future doctors could play the leading role in better prevention of HIV/AIDS infection in the community.