Knowledge of AIDS, Perceived Risk of AIDS, and At–Risk Sexual Behaviors Among Older Adults


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To identify older adults' knowledge of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), perceptions of their risk of AIDS, and at-risk behaviors by using a questionnaire derived from the health belief model.

Data Sources

A descriptive correlation design was used to survey persons 50 years of age and older who participate in university-based senior programs. The sample of 166 persons (55% return rate) had a mean age of 71 years and included 33% males. The sample is representative of the participants in these programs.


Five hypotheses based on the health belief model were tested. Statistical analyses showed significant predictors of the likelihood of using recommended safe sexual practices were gender, knowledge of AIDS, perceived susceptibility to AIDS, and perceived threat of AIDS. The results indicated the respondents were knowledgeable about human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission through casual contact and medical aspects of AIDS. Although the respondents recognized the seri-ousness of AIDS, they generally did not believe that they were susceptible to this disease, even though about 10% indicated sexual activity outside of a long-term relationship.

Implications for Practice

The study findings support the need for nurse practitioners to assess sexual behaviors in and provide information about safe sex practices to older clients because of the documented rising incidence of AIDS in persons over 50 years of age.