Substance abuse and vulnerability to HIV and AIDS among adolescents in public secondary schools in Meru Central district, Kenya
Kinoti, Mboroki Silas
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A drug is any natural or artificially made chemical that changes the functions or structure of the body in some way. On the other hand drug abuse is the non-medical use of drugs. Most studies among young people have been done on relationship between injectable drugs and HIV and AIDS. However little has been done on relationship between HIV and AIDS and non-injectable substances such as alcohol, khat (locally called miraa), cigarette ad bhang among others. This study aimed to determine the relationship between substance abuse and vulnerability to HIV and AIDS among adolescents in public secondary schools in Meru Central District. Vulnerability was assessed on the basis of risky behaviour patterns of substance abusers. A descriptive cross- sectional survey was conducted and a sample size of 740 students selected. Simple stratified random sampling was used to select schools from various categories and proportional random sampling was used to select respondents from the selected schools. Qualitative data was obtained using focus group discussions and interviews while quantative data was collected using self-administered questionnaires. Data was analyzed using one way ANOVA to determine the most commonly abused substances among adolescents in public secondary schools and to test whether there were significant differences in substance abuse among adolescents in boys', girls' and co-education schools in the district. The t-test was used to determine whether there was significant difference in substance abuse between rural and urban schools. About 60% (n= 736) of the students in public secondary schools in Forms two to four admitted that they were involved in substance abuse such as alcohol, khat, cigarette, bhang or glue. There was a significant difference in substance abuse levels in public secondary schools (F=5.014, df=7, P<0.05, n= 736). A post ANOVA test (Tukeys HSD, P < 0.05) showed that commercial alcohol and khat were abused by significantly high number of students (P< 0.05) during school time. The number of boys abusing substances was significantly higher than that of girls (F=40.9, df =76, P<0.05, n=736). The t-test showed that there was a significant difference in the number of students taking substances in rural schools compared to urban schools (t38 = 5.019, p < 0.05). Tukeys test (P<0.05) revealed that students in rural schools mostly abused khat followed by alcohol while in urban schools more students abused alcohol followed by khat. Over 40 (n=736) of the students had experienced sexual intercourse at the time of the study. Nearly 40% (n= 294) of the students had sexual intercourse without any protection such as condom and over 17% (n = 294) of the students had multiple sexual partners by the time of the study. About 31.4% (n= 294) of the sexual abuse was attributed to people under the influence of substance abuse. The study revealed that abuse of substances such as khat, alcohol, cigarette and bhang contributed to high risks of vulnerability to HIV and AIDS. From the study it can be concluded that commonly abused substances that are non-injectable lead to high vulnerability of contracting HIV and AIDS. Therefore the government of Kenya and all stakeholders should endevour not only to control injectable drugs but also the commonly abused substances in order to fight HIV and AIDS effectively.