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J Adolesc Health. 2007 Jun;40(6):572.e1-8. Epub 2007 Mar 26.

Break the silence: HIV/AIDS knowledge, attitudes, and educational needs among Arab university students in United Arab Emirates.

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Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health, Pomeranian Medical University, Szczecin, Poland.



In light of increasing spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the Middle East, we assessed knowledge, attitudes, and educational needs of young people in United Arab Emirates (UAE), a modern and moderately conservative Islamic country.


A cross-sectional survey among randomly selected first-year, gender-segregated Arab students at the national university in Al Ain in 2005 was conducted using an adaptation of an anonymous self-administered World Health Organization questionnaire. Knowledge and attitudes were scored.


Response was 89%; 119 males and 148 females. Knowledge scores about HIV/AIDS were low for 75%, moderate for 24%, high for <1%. Although 90% knew main routes of infection, there were misconceptions about transmission, and only 31% knew there is no vaccine and 34% no cure. Religion was stated as a reason to avoid extramarital relationships by 91% and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by 38%; 94% favored premarital testing. Attitudes toward people living with HIV (PLH) were neither friendly nor tolerant, including 97% who felt all people entering UAE should be tested, 53% that PLH should be forced to live apart, and only 27% who felt children with HIV should be allowed to attend school. Ninety-six percent stated that young people should be taught how to protect themselves and 57% that teaching at school was insufficient. Main information sources were books/media; preferred sources were media, schools, and health professionals. Males scored higher on knowledge and were more susceptible to fear of STDs, society, and family; females showed greater compassion and interest in premarital testing and education to protect themselves.


Alarming gaps in knowledge about transmission and curability put young Arabs at risk of contracting HIV. Fear and intolerant attitudes toward PLH were prevalent. HIV/AIDS education designed to raise knowledge and change attitudes, and respectful of community values, is urgently needed from media, schools, and health professionals.

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