. Majority of the respondents in this study, not having formal education (52.7%) revealed that the literacy level is low. This possibly contributed to the level of misconception found in this study.

Some religious leaders believe that HIV is a punishment from God for people who commit sexual sin [19] . Only 29.7% of respondents knew that this is not correct. This has the potential of encouraging a large number of persons who ought to provide care and compassion for People Living with HIV, denying them the needed care. In addition to being punishment for evil committed in the past, some pregnant women in Nigeria also believe that witchcraft could cause HIV/AIDS [8] . There are widespread misconceptions in some rural areas about HIV transmission, with some believing that it can be transmitted through sharing food or drink, shaking hands, or being in the same room with an infected person [20] . Though only 12.2% of respondents believed that HIV can be transmitted by eating from the same plate used by an infected person, up to 63.2% of them not being sure whether this is possible is worrisome. Most people in that group may eventually be deceived into believing that HIV transmission can occur through sharing meal with an infected person. This eventually will increase the problem of stigmatization and militate against HIV/AIDS control efforts. It is a bit curious that in an HIV/AIDS study among secondary school students in Osun state, Nigeria six years ago; as high as 22.4% of the respondents believed that HIV transmission could occur through sharing meal with an infected person [21] . One would have expected that since the Osun state study was conducted among secondary school students who are more educated than most of the respondents in this study, knowledge that HIV is not transmitted through sharing of meals should have been better among them. Similar finding (26.5%) to that of Osun state was made in rural China ten years ago [6] , but a much higher level of misconception about eating and drinking as a route of HIV transmission (50.8%)was documented among rural communities inhabitants in Sudan four years ago [22] .

One obvious way of dramatizing stigmatization of HIV infected person is by avoiding a handshake with the person. This usually occurs in public and could be very embarrassing. Though the finding in this study, that only 7.1% of the respondents believed that HIV can be transmitted through handshake could be said to be encouraging; having up to 63.2% of them not being sure if transmission could occur through handshake is worrisome. The finding on misconception about handshake being a route of HIV transmission appears slightly better than the finding in the previously cited Osun state, Nigeria study where 10.5% of respondents believed that HIV can be transmitted by holding hands. The level of misconception found in this study, about handshake being a route for HIV transmission again appears better than the 24.6% found in rural China ten years ago [6] . This finding in China could have improved tremendously by now, since it is probable that more information on HIV transmission could have been made available to the rural population in China, in the last ten years. A more worrisome finding of 48.8% of respondents believing that transmission of HIV could occur through handshake was made four years ago in rural communities in Sudan [22] .

If people who provide care for People Living with HIV (PLHIV) believe that touching the urine or faeces of infected persons could transmit the infection, they might be scared of assisting the very ill HIV/AIDS patients dispose their urine and faecal waste. This will adversely affect the care and support available to the PLHIVs and worsen their prognosis. Only 24.0% of respondents in this study knew that HIV infection cannot be contracted through touching urine or faeces of infected persons. This needs to be improved upon.

Another common misconception about HIV/AIDS is that transmission can occur through hugging or touching an infected person. As high as 33.2% of respondents in a study among rural adult population in Southwestern Nigeria, eight years ago believed that HIV transmission could occur through hugging, talking to people infected with HIV, and holding their hands [7] . A more encouraging finding of 16.2% was made in March this year among secondary school students in another Southwestern state of Nigeria [21] . An apparently better finding of only 9.1% of respondents having that misconception was made in this study. The limitation of this finding is that only 28.0% of respondents are certain that hugging or touching an infected person does not transmit HIV. As high as 62.8% were not sure if HIV infection could occur through hugging or touching an infected person. HIV/AIDS currently not having a cure is very vital information that could serve as a deterrent to irresponsible behaviours that expose people to HIV infection. It is very worrisome that only 19.9% of respondents in this study had this knowledge. Many pregnant women (58.6%) in Gwagwalada Area Council of Abuja, Nigeria had the correct knowledge two years ago, that currently there is no cure for HIV/AIDS [8] . This could be because Abuja is an urban area, and pregnant women are usually given health talk during their antenatal visits. These probably accounted for the better knowledge exhibited by respondents in the Gwagwalada Abuja study. Another study in Nigeria revealed that 29.4% of respondents believed that there is cure for HIV/AIDS [21] . A slightly better finding of 18.2% in this study could again be apparent, since most of the respondents were not sure if HIV/AIDS was curable or not. Some people, including certain most at risk persons believe that praying daily could protect them from HIV infection even in the face of having unprotected sexual intercourse. In a qualitative study among Female Commercial Sex Workers done in four cities in Nigeria, almost all of them are aware of the risk of HIV infection when having unprotected sexual intercourse, but many expose themselves to that risk after praying and believing that all merciful and forgiving God will protect them [23] . Only 20.3% of respondents in this study knew that only prayers do not protect from HIV infection. This implies that most of them could be careless with their sexual life, believing that only daily prayers offer protection against HIV infection. Better knowledge on “Worshipping our ancestors as a method of HIV prevention” was demonstrated by respondents in this study, than was found in their using prayers as HIV preventive method. This probably is because most of them are Christians. In the already cited Gwagwalada, Abuja, Nigerian study, few of the respondents believed that sacrifices to the “gods” prevent HIV infection [8] . It was however documented in a South African qualitative study among youths, that traditional ancestral worship significantly influenced people’s response to HIV/AIDS [24] .

In a study conducted at the same time, and among the same respondents, some misconceptions about routes of HIV transmission were documented as follows; inhaling polluted air (79.1%), drinking water touched by HIV infected person (74.3%), and insect bite (77.7%) [25] . Considering only the data on the number of respondents that answered “TRUE” to the questions asked on misconception, one will get the erroneous impression that the level of misconception in the community is low. However, when one considers that also very few respondents are certain about those comments being misconceptions, and that majority are not sure, then it becomes obvious that so much misconceptions about HIV/AIDS abound in the rural community where this study was conducted. Looking at the results obtained during a concurrent research among the same respondents [25] , confirms this. Probably not giving the respondents the option of “NOT SURE” would have made them clearly take a stand.

5. Conclusion

Misconceptions about HIV/AIDS could usually be associated with different risky behaviours that might lead to getting infected with HIV [10] [14] . Misconception has the potential of preventing people from taking necessary steps aimed at preventing HIV infection [26] . In keeping with findings in some rural communities in Africa [9] , there is worrisome level of misconceptions about HIV/AIDS among inhabitants of rural population in our study. Since inhabitants of rural communities probably are more likely to hold misconceptions about HIV [27] , it is very crucial that relevant governments in developing countries design interventions aimed at addressing these misconceptions and empowering the rural dwellers with adequate information on HIV/AIDS. This will greatly enhance the adoption of behaviour change in these rural communities, and contribute positively to HIV control efforts.

Cite this paper
Ndibuagu, E. , Okafor, I. and Omotowo, B. (2017) Assessment of Key HIV Misconceptions among Inhabitants of a Rural Community in Enugu State, Nigeria. Journal of Biosciences and Medicines, 5, 65-74. doi: 10.4236/jbm.2017.59007.

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