Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A qualitative study of perceived risk for HIV transmission among police officers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Edith AM Tarimo1*, Thecla W Kohi1, Muhammad Bakari2 and Asli Kulane3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nursing Management, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

2 Department of Internal Medicine, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

3 Division of Global Health, Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:785  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-785

Published: 29 August 2013



Understanding people’s views about HIV transmission by investigating a specific population may help to design effective HIV prevention strategies. In addition, knowing the inherent sexual practices of such a population, as well as the risky circumstances that may facilitate HIV transmission, is crucial for the said strategies to become effective. In this article, we report how police officers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, perceived the problem of HIV and AIDS in their local context, particularly in relation to unsafe sexual practices. The study was done with the view to recommending ways by which HIV transmission could be minimised within the police force.


The study was conducted among members of the police force in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Eight focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted, with a total of 66 participants who were mixed in terms of age, gender, and marital status. Some of these were caregivers to patients with AIDS. Data were analysed using the interpretive description approach.


The participants believed that both individual sexual behaviour and work-related circumstances were sources of HIV infection. They also admitted that they were being tempted to engage in risky sexual practices because of the institutional rules that prohibit officers from getting married during their training and for three years after. Nevertheless, as members of the Police Force, they stressed the fact that the risky sexual behaviour that exposes them to HIV is not limited to the force; it is rather a common problem that is faced by the general population. However, they complained, the nature of their job exposes them to road accident victims, subjecting them further to possible infection, especially when they have to handle these road accident casualties without proper protective gear.


Individual sexual behaviour and job-related circumstances are worth investigating if proper advice is to be given to the police regarding HIV prevention strategies. In order to improve the lives of these police officers, there is a need to review the existing institutional rules and practices to accommodate individual sexual needs. In addition, improving their working environment may minimize the risk of HIV transmission from handling casualties in emergency situations.