Qualitative and quantitative approaches were used in a rural hospital of Cameroon to assess how much nursing personnel know about and practise in regard to human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), and to determine health service factors that influence knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP). Participants included 107 nursing and laboratory staff and 62 patients with AIDS. Self-administered questionnaires were used for nurses, and close-ended questionnaires were administered to patients with AIDS (as a verification tool for staff responses). Focus group discussions (FGD) held with nurse supervisors evaluated health service factors that influence KAP. Overall, 70.1% of the nurses who responded scored highly in the knowledge section compared to 50.5% in the attitude and practice section. There were several outstanding misconceptions and malpractices about HIV/AIDS. Knowledge, but not attitude, was significantly influenced by the grade of the staff (P< 0.001 and P=0.17, respectively). Approximately 15% of 62 patients with AIDS indicated that they were attended to with signs of disgust and/or hatred. The major health service factors thought to influence KAP, confirmed by many in all the FGD, included: the lack of adequate information; the lack of commitment to alter attitudes and practices; the lack of in-service promotions; and the ongoing fear of becoming infected with the virus through caring for patients with AIDS. Low income also seemed to have an influence on KAP. Therefore, it is imperative that ongoing education programmes are provided for nurses to enable them to meet the needs of the increasing HIV prevalence in our community. Information, education and communication, and compliance with international working norms, remain essential tools in the control of HIV/AIDS spread in our hospital settings.
- Rural Nurses