Credibility of information from official sources on HIV/AIDS transmission

Nurit Guttman*, Daria Boccher-Lattimore, Charles T. Salmon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective. The authors analyzed data from the 1991 National Planning Survey to (a) assess respondents' awareness of three official sources of information about HIV/AIDS (CDC, the Surgeon General, and state health departments); (b) assess respondents' perceptions of the reliability of these sources; and (c) compare respondents' personal beliefs about HIV transmission with their beliefs regarding the experts' view. Methods. The authors conducted a secondary analysis of the responses of the 1622 survey participants who gave complete information. Results. People with more years of formal education were more likely to have heard of the CDC and the Surgeon General. The CDC was given the highest overall reliability rating, followed by the Surgeon General and then state health departments. Transmission of HIV/AIDS by various modes of casual contact was perceived more likely among those who gave the CDC lower reliability ratings. However, regardless of their perceptions of the reliability of the CDC as a source of HIV/AIDS information, many respondents believed the probability of transmission by casual contact more likely than they believed experts said it was. Conclusions. The discrepancy found between what people believe about health risks and what they think experts believe has important implications for the design of effective health information campaigns and for the design of questionnaire items that aim to assess people's 'knowledge' and 'attitudes' regarding sensitive health topics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-471
Number of pages7
JournalPublic Health Reports
Volume113
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1998

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