AVAILABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY AS INFLUENCING FACTORS OF HIV/AIDS INFORMATION UTILIZATION AMONG WOMEN

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AVAILABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY AS INFLUENCING FACTORS OF HIV/AIDS INFORMATION UTILIZATION AMONG WOMEN

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

All the human activities that result in problem solving and the production of goods and services depend on the availability, accessibility and utilization of information to effect communication.  Communication in this context, is the sharing of information by human beings. The process can be carried out in different ways and through different media of communication. In this era of HIV/AIDS, community members are involved in complex behaviour to solving the problems posed by the presence of HIV/AIDS, as noted by Donohue and Kochen ( 1973 ), concerning the complex social setting. In the current setting of HIV/AIDS pandemic, the everyday information needs of the average community member in the remotest village of our local government areas, has become a very critical issue.  However, sad enough, as noted by Dervin ( 1976 ) as quoted by Okwilagwe (1993).

The first cases of HIV/AIDS in the world were identified in the United States of America among a group of homosexuals (Rosenberg , 1992) and WHO (1999) noted that about 50 million people worldwide were living with the virus;  90 percent were in developing countries with a sizeable proportion of them being children and women. In Nigeria, HIV/AIDS was identified in 1986 (Okafor, 1996), and the prevalence rate rose steadily to a peak of 5.8 percent by 2002.  The prevalence rate reduced in 2003, putting the country at 5.0 percent as reported in the Nigerian National Sentinel prevalence study of 2003 by ( Uneze, 2005 ).

The HIV prevalence study by state, 1991-2003, placed Cross River State at the top of the table with 12.5 percent rate. That meant that as at 2003, at least 240,000 people were living with the virus in Cross River State. The high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in Cross River State is alarming and questionable. Unfortunately twenty-four years into the pandemic, the vast majority of young people remain uninformed about safe sex and issues relating to sexually transmitted infections {STIs). Information must not only be available, adequate and accessible but must be presented in a way that is culturally acceptable to facilitate the acceptability and eventual utilization of the information. There are many socio-cultural factors affecting the lives of African young women which make them more vulnerable to HIV infection ( Uwakwe, 1997). He suggested that women are the worst victims of unprotected sexual intercourse because they lack the bargaining power to negotiate for safer sex practices with their male counterparts. This lack of bargaining powers is culturally embedded in our African society. This is also coupled with the fact that, the women are generally marginalized in terms of accessibility to educational information and other social amenities ( Uwakwe, 1997). During the periods of postnatal, sexual abstinence for productive age women, husbands often establish sexual relationships with other women which may expose them to HIV transmission ( Hernandez and Vandale, 1993). Economic dependence, urbanization and civil strife have negative consequences, in addition, traditional sexual inequality increases women’s risk of being infected with HIV (Seidel, 1993 ).

HIV/AIDS situation in Nigeria

Nigeria with a population of about 140 million is one of the countries where the existence of HIV/AIDS has been reported, and where fears of further spread of the deadly disease have been expressed ( Asagba, 1992; Ozoemene, 1992; Abiodu, 1993; Okafor, 1997). The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria has not been steady, nonetheless the high rates of infection is still of great concern. Nigeria has the highest number of HIV/AIDS infected adults in West Africa ( UN, 2004 ). Nigeria is also the third  country in the world after South Africa and India with the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS ( Peter-Omale and Taiwo, 2006 ). It has been projected by USAIDS ( 2002 ) that, by 2010 there will be 10-15 million HIV cases in Nigeria.  Research data in Nigeria shows that HIV/AIDS is evident in rural as well as urban areas of the country therefore, education and prevention efforts should not be concentrated only in the urban centers   (Okafor, 1997 ).  Poverty, ignorance and illiteracy make it difficult for some women to have access to information.  This perhaps has been one of the major reasons for the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

HIV/AIDS in Cross River State

The study area is Cross River State of Nigeria.  Cross River State is one of the 36 states of Nigeria located in the South- South Geo Political Zone. Its population is estimated at 2,888,966 (National Population Commission, 2006), out of which 1,396,501 are women. The indigenes are mostly farmers, fishermen and traders. HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Cross River State has been increasing and as at the last sentinel survey (2003), 12.5% was the highest in the country. The rate of spread is alarming and this calls for investigation.  At varying times, Cross River State prevalence rate has been put at: 1991/92 (0.0%); 1993/94 (4.1%); and 1995/96 (1.4%).  It dropped and rose again in 1999 to (5.8%); 2001 (8.0%) and 2004 ( 12. 5%) (Technical Report, 2004).  In 2006, the prevalence rate dropped from 12.5% to 6% in Cross River State, (Akpan, 2006 ).  According to a report in the Daily Independent, 2008, the wife of Cross River State Governor, Mrs Llyel Imoke lamented the increasing cases of HIV/AIDS infections which she said has resulted in rise in cases of divorce in the state.

HIV/AIDS Information Behaviour

Information behaviour is regarded as an interplay between information needs, access to  information, utilization and the effects of information use. These four aspects are treated as problem areas to which research questions are related. The behaviour is to a large extent affected and formed by a social context in which various demands, expectations and ideas affect an individual’s ways and possibilities to act (Davenport, 1997). The rural women, due to their ignorance and low level of education may have difficulty in searching for adequate information at the appropriate time to solve their problems, socially and economically. For instance, there are some rural women who are not aware of HIV/AIDS; as such they do not believe that AIDS is real (Personal discussion).  The  women, if properly informed could change their behaviour towards HIV/AIDS.

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