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Open Access Research article

Assessment of the knowledge and attitudes regarding HIV/AIDS among pre-clinical medical students in Israel

Rotem Baytner-Zamir1, Margalit Lorber12* and Doron Hermoni3

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Medicine, The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel

2 Autoimmune Disease Unit, Rambam Medical Center, Faculty of Medicine, The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel

3 Department of Family Medicine, Sharon-Shomron District, Clalit Health Services; Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel

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BMC Research Notes 2014, 7:168  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-168

Published: 20 March 2014

Abstract

Background

Today’s medical students are the future physicians of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). It is therefore essential that medical students possess the appropriate knowledge and attitudes regarding PLWHA. This study aims to evaluate knowledge and attitudes of pre-clinical Israeli medical students and to assess whether their knowledge and attitudes change throughout their pre-clinical studies.

Methods

A cross-sectional study was conducted among all pre-clinical medical students from the four medical schools in Israel during the academic year of 2010/2011 (a total of 1,470 students). A self-administered questionnaire was distributed. The questionnaire sought student responses pertaining to knowledge of HIV transmission and non-transmission routes, basic knowledge of HIV/AIDS treatment and attitudes towards HIV/AIDS.

Results

The study’s response rate was 62.24 percent. Knowledge among pre-clinical medical students was generally high and showed a statistically significant improvement as students progressed through their pre-clinical studies. However, there were some misconceptions, mostly regarding HIV transmission via breastfeeding and knowledge of HIV prevention after exposure to the virus. Students’ attitudes were found to include stigmatizing notions. Furthermore, the majority of medical students correlated HIV with shame and fear. In addition, students’ attitudes toward HIV testing and providing confidential medical information were contradictory to health laws, protocols and guidelines. Overall, no positive changes in students’ attitudes were observed during the pre-clinical years of medical school.

Conclusion

The knowledge of pre-clinical medical students in Israel is generally high, although there are some knowledge inadequacies that require more emphasis in the curricula of the medical schools. Contrary to HIV-related knowledge, medical students’ attitudes are unaffected by their progression through medical school. Therefore, medical schools in Israel should modify their curricula to include teaching methods aimed at improving HIV-related attitudes and adherence to medical professionalism.

Keywords:
Knowledge; Attitudes; HIV; AIDS; Medical students