Information is an indispensable for human development. Losce (1990) describes information as the knowledge communicated or received concerning particular circumstances. In the opinion of Okwilagwe (2000) information is an input, which reduces the level of uncertainty in any decision process. It is a crucial factor for a healthy life. Access to quality health information is critical to many facets of health care design and delivery.
Health information is published and unpublished knowledge on all aspects of health and healthcare. Individuals seek healthcare information for reasons ranging from curiosity to self-diagnosis and treatment (BIREME/PAHO/WHO, 2008). This is particularly true for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Nigeria has an estimated 3.5 million infected persons (FMINO, 2007). It is imperative that they be adequately empowered with information to make the right decisions pertaining to their health.
The role of information for PLWHA cannot be ignored. Information is vital to relieve pain and discomfort, both physical and mental. As posited by Peterson and Obileye (2002), information helps extend and improve the quality of life by reducing viral load. The absence of information can lead to interrupted treatment and self-medication (Colebunder, et al., 1997). Access to quality healthcare information and knowledge by PLWHA is very essential. In a survey carried out by Erica (2008) on barriers to equitable access to health information, major barriers were lack of political support, information infrastructure and workforce capacity, and the high cost of accessing up to date, timely, and relevant information.
In Nigeria, HIV/AIDS was first identified in 1985 and reported at an international conference in 1986 (Adeyi, et al., 2006). It is a significant barrier to development as 170,000 Nigerians died from AIDS in 2007 alone (UNAIDS, 2008). The country has already surpassed the 5 percent explosive prevalence phase; thus far, this disease has killed more than 1.3 million and orphaned more than 1 million children (FMINO, 2007). The infection rate in Nigeria varies across state and communities. The main mode of HIV transmission in Nigeria is largely through unprotected heterosexual sex. Factors such as poverty, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), social and religious norms, and political and social changes (e.g., labor migration) contribute to increasing rates of HIV in Nigeria (National AIDS/STD control programme/FMOH, 2001). There have been efforts geared at halting the spread of HIV/AIDS by governmental and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), faith-based and media organizations, and other international agencies such as USAID, PEPFAR, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, CIDA, DFID, etc.
In spite of research and intervention efforts for prevention and treatment, access to appropriate health information by PLWHA in Nigeria constitutes a great barrier (NACA, 2005). To halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, access to quality health information by PLWHA is a sine qua non. That is the focus of this study.
Objectives of the Study
To ascertain the challenges of access to health information by PLWHA in Nigeria, a survey was carried out with the following objectives:
* Identify the demographic characteristics of people living with HIV/AIDS, (PLWHA).
* Identify the sources of health information used by PLWHA.
* Determining the frequency of access to health information by PLWHA.
* Identify constraints in accessing health information by PLWHA.
It is hoped that this study will help policy makers, healthcare providers, health workers, information providers, library and information professionals, and other stakeholders in the health sector to respond positively to the information needs of PLWHA by identifying such needs and exploring avenues to improving access to health information.
The survey research design was adopted for the study. The population of people living with HIV/AIDS was drawn from the south south zone of Nigeria. This zone was chosen because it has the median HIV sero prevalence rate of 5.2 percent, the 2nd highest in Nigeria (National AIDS/STD control programme/FMOH, 1999). The sampled population of the study is made up of PLWHA who were at a Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted infections in Akwa-Ibom state in Southern Nigeria on 11 th -14 th November, 2008. This conference was...