OBJECTIVE--To assess the knowledge and attitudes of medical students to HIV/AIDS and whether attitudes correlate with knowledge and clinical experience. To determine if students felt adequately prepared to deal with medical and psychological aspects of HIV/AIDS. SUBJECTS AND METHODS--The subjects consisted of 190 London and 99 Cambridge medical students at the end of their genitourinary medicine attachment, plus 230 Cambridge medical students at the end of their second pre-clinical year. Between March 1991 and February 1992 all were asked to complete an anonymous questionnaire, covering factual knowledge and attitudes towards HIV/AIDS. MAIN RESULTS--Cambridge genitourinary medicine students, despite spending less time studying HIV infection than their London counterparts gave more correct answers to the factual questions, although this difference did not reach significance (52.4% vs. 47.5%, p = 0.14). One third of students believed that many health care workers were at high risk of acquiring HIV at work and one fifth thought doctors should have the right to refuse to treat people with HIV. Fourteen percent of Cambridge genitourinary medicine students indicated that most British people with HIV have only themselves to blame, by comparison with 4% of London students (p = 0.003). Thirty-nine per cent of Cambridge genitourinary medicine students expressed reluctance to care for someone with AIDS by comparison with 10% of London students (p = 0.0001). CONCLUSIONS--It is important that medical educators convey accurate information about HIV, including the actual risks posed by occupational exposure and try to ensure that medical students spend sufficient time seeing patients with HIV/AIDS during their training.
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