The role of primary school teachers in HIV prevention in South Africa.
South Africa has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world. The need for an intensive campaign against its spread cannot be overemphasised. Such efforts may be particularly effective if introduced prior to the onset of risk behaviour. The purpose of this study was to investigate the knowledge of grade 3 and 4 schoolteachers on HIV/AIDS and their opinion on educating their pupils about HIV prevention. A self-administered questionnaire with knowledge, perception and sociodemographic variables was sent to all 120 grade 3 and 4 teachers in the Southern Bushveld district of Northern Province. Descriptive statistics and multiple regression analysis were used to analyse the data. The response rate was 67% (N = 81) and 87.7% were females. The mean age of the respondents was 37.7 (+/- 8.7 SD) years, 55% had a 3-year teacher's training qualification and 27% had a 4-year training qualification. The average teaching experience was 12 years. Most respondents (93.8%) had knowledge of what HIV/AIDS is, but only 85.2% indicated it could be prevented. 14.8% either did not know HIV/AIDS could be prevented or were not sure. Some teachers had an incomplete understanding of the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS. Furthermore only 9% mentioned education as a way to prevent HIV/AIDS and 16% abstinence. Of the respondents, 58% indicated teaching HIV prevention to their pupils. Of those who do not teach HIV prevention, 41.2% believed that the pupils were too young, and 20.6% claimed non-availability of guidelines and resources as reasons for not teaching. A significant negative correlation was found between level of qualification and teaching of HIV to pupils (p < 0.05). In conclusion, many primary school teachers were found to be wanting in their HIV/AIDS knowledge. This suggests that the schoolteachers would need to be adequately trained prior to their involvement in HIV/AIDS education to pupils. Grade 3 and 4 teachers may be considered suitable to provide HIV education to their pupils, but there is a need for structured educational programmes they can follow. This study also suggests that teachers were not aware of the Department of Education's HIV policy of providing age-appropriate education to all pupils.