An analysis of social work students' knowledge, values and attitudes toward HIV/AIDS

Thumbnail Image
Podolsky-Scarth, Susan
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome have had a substantial impact on thousands of Canadians. The increase of HIV disease in vulnerable populations means that there is an expanding role for social workers to meet the needs of these individuals and to prevent the spread of further infection. The literature on HIV/AIDS reveals that it is a disease surrounded by stigmatization, and discrimination on social, political, personal and professional levels. Although much has been discovered and learned about this disease, deficits in knowledge, nd preparation to work with these clients exist. This exploratory study investigated the attitudes, knowledge and comfort of 134 students enrolled at various stages of the Bachelor of Social Work and Premasters programs at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba. The role of social work values in professionally preparing these students with appropriate attitudes toward the disease was also investigated. Several additional variables related to experience with the disease, interest in working with the disease, and demographic variables were also incorporated into this study. The results of this study demonstrated that overall, respondents held appropriate attitudes toward the disease, however, deficits in knowledge regarding the populations who have been most impacted by the disease, as well as resources for individuals with HIV/AIDS, were revealed. Respondents' attitudes were found to be significantly related to their ability to apply values to practice situations, their knowledge of the disease, and their attitudes toward being in contact with those with the disease. It was hoped that this study would increase understanding of how to best prepare students for their professional roles in dealing with a multi-faceted problem such as HIV/AIDS. Implications for future coursework and educational preparation for students to work effectively in their roles as social workers with HIV/AIDS are discussed, as well as the implications for future research.