There is a growing concern that barbering procedures could create opportunities for HIV as well as other blood borne and skin diseases transmission. In areas where such infections are common assessing knowledge, attitude and practice of barbers and to evaluate the efficacy of proper sterilization and/or disinfection techniques have a paramount importance for proper intervention. In Africa, barber shaving is probably one of a number of nonsexual cultural practices that may expose individuals to blood and blood-borne pathogens through the use of shared instruments repeatedly for different customers without intervening disinfection and sterilization and unaware of the concept of transmission of infectious agents [19
]. For instance, the prevalence of saloon or roadside barber shaving has been reported to be as high as 34 - 49% in countries such as Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh [20
]. The practices done in barbershop, however, are largely underestimated and unaddressed as one of a route of blood-borne disease transmission [19
]. In other countries, it was well reported that barbers used sharp instruments which may facilitate the transmission of HBV and HCV [15
In the current study, the knowledge, attitude and practice of barbers and the efficacy of the sterilization and/or disinfection techniques practiced in the two cities of northwest Ethiopia was assessed for the first time. The majority of them had ever practiced sterilization by using the direct flame. The current most common practice was disinfection using ethanol although others like chlorine (sodium hypochlorate), phenolic compounds, quaternary ammonium compounds, iodine and iodophores inactivate organisms [24
]. Using ethanol in the current study had not been a problem; however, most barbers didn’t know the concentration of the disinfectants and the appropriate place where quality types of disinfectants were purchased in the market. In similar study [14
] in Nigeria, 52% of the disinfections involved the use of kerosene, a disinfectant not recommended for HIV inactivation; 48.3% of the disinfectants were not in the original containers while 53.4% of the sessions involved the use of same brush for cleaning clipper and brushing hair. Like the above Nigerian study, hand-held direct flame was a commonest (89.3%) sterilization technique in the current study but ultra-violet light sterilizer were not used in 50% of the sterilization process in Nigeria [14
] and almost none in the current study. Though majority of the respondents were appeared to observe decontamination either as disinfection or sterilization, more than half of the disinfections were inappropriately done [25
] which accounted 30% and 20% in the current study, respectively. This implies that the seemingly high disinfection rate among the respondents may only amount to a false sense of security to the clients and general public. This finding is similar to some previous studies on barbers’ practices [7
Moreover, there was no organized body for inspection of barbering practices as well as there were no guidelines and governing rules and almost all sterilization and disinfection procedures were riskily practiced according to Likert scaling. These could show barbershop are the neglected areas of interest in regard to infection control and prevention strategies including HIV /AIDS in Ethiopia which is in agreement with previous study from Nigeria that indicated barbers’ activities could serve as a potential group for indirect transmission of HIV in the general population and such practices have not given any noticeable attention by the government and other bodies [14
]. Another study also indicated that unlicensed activities by barbers are being done without knowing important health principles [27
]. However, unlike under developing countries, activities of barbers are regulated in developed countries through a comprehensive training, licensing and monitoring programmes [24
]. This is because the concept of universal precaution considers all blood and body fluids to be potentially infectious and all invasive instruments to be potentially contaminated if already used [28
]. The responsibility to keep instruments free of infective agents lies on the barbers.
Our finding that none of the respondents had favorable attitudes towards sterilization and disinfection importance and availability was also consistent an Indian study [29
] that showed barbers do not have any perception of unhealthy working practices in barbering and even awareness about threat of receiving hazardous infection from their customers is also unsatisfactory. Downey et al.
] reported that creation of awareness among barbers about Hepatitis B, C and HIV would play a vital part in prevention and control of these infections. Barbers have low awareness about hepatitis and the risk of transmission of infectious agents by reuse of razors and scissors on multiple clients [15
Many studies appraising the knowledge and practices about HIV transmission are conducted among various sections of society. However, little attention has been given towards and very few studies were reported about barber’s knowledge and practices regarding HIV transmission [13
]. In the current study, 84.1% of the respondents knew that HIV and other skin infections could be transmitted by sharing non-sterile sharp barbershop instruments which was comparably to the study done in Nigeria [14
]: However, it was contrary to a study from Nagpur, India [13
] which had reported 81% were ignorant about modes of HIV transmission, particularly transmission via razor blades. Nevertheless, in the current study less than half of the participants (48%) had the correct knowledge of what sterilization mean despite the fact that all were able to mention at least one disease which could be transmitted by unsterilized sharp objects and almost all (98.3%) knew sterilization is important in their work place. Wazir et al.
] in their study showed that the level of knowledge among barbers about health hazards associated with their profession was very poor. In line to this, in the current study all the barbers were aware of HIV/AIDS and they had a mean knowledge score of 6
1.5 out of a maximum score of 10 regarding sterilization and disinfection as well as in the transmission of HIV in their work place. However, using the Likert scaling, respondents’ had poor level of knowledge. A study from Nigeria found a mean knowledge score of 7.2 out of a maximum score of 10 among barbers on HIV/AIDS [14
]. Most barbers might knew about AIDS that had not resulted in any risk reduction practices [15
] but practices of blade reuse have also been reported from a survey of barbers in India [13
The observational check list of barbers’ practices showed that almost all barbers used at least one of sterilization and disinfection procedures but majority (80.0%) of barbers didn’t practice a correct sterilization and/or disinfection procedures and was consistent with the study in Nigeria [14
]. Practices such as re-using the same blade, using fixed-blade razors, and performing inadequate disinfection procedures were common, especially among roadside barbers [8
]. Specific HIV-risks of barbering procedures relating to HIV transmission have been documented in Nigeria and other African and Asian countries [13
] that reported incidences of accidental cuts on scalps and poor hygiene practices, including low disinfection rates of re-useable instruments.
The concept of time of contact of sharp instruments during sterilization and disinfection practices, which if properly done can inactivate infectious agents including HIV was not considered in the majority of the barbers. Despite the availability and concentration of disinfectants used in the barbershop, time of contact of the materials and disinfectants showed only 9.8% of them practiced for more than 15 seconds and majority (79.7%) of the barbers didn’t know the duration of time of contact when they used disinfect and/or sterilize their instruments. Health and personal care workers are known to adhere strictly to decontamination guidelines for invasive instruments and the principle of ‘universal precautions’ [28
] but regarding barbers such practices were uncommon and less practiced. Besides poor knowledge, practices and awareness, it is reported that barbers are paying more attention to the decoration, air conditioning, sound system, and availability of television in the shop, but they are not paying attention to risk factors associated with their profession in the prevention of diseases [13
] which is consistent with our present study that none had sink, tap water and first aid kits.
The isolation of organism in the post-procedural sterilization and/or disinfection and low average percent colony reduction suggest that the sterilization and disinfectant procedures performed in barbershop were generally poor and indicates the knowledge, the attitudes, and practices of the barber on proper sterilization and/or disinfection techniques were unfavorable. This may result in the transmission of viruses and other pathogens. Reports elsewhere showed the likelihood of transmission increases with the frequency of reuse of razors and blades [20
] under the above microbiological conditions. In particular, hands should be kept clean, gloves should be worn and adequate microbiological cleanliness of tools should be ensured. Inspection services should pay particular attention to whether the rules of handling used materials, a potential source of infection, are obeyed by workers [36
Any of the sociodemographic characters and microbiological data was not found to influence the decontamination and sterilization of barbering equipments except monthly income and pre and post colony count which was associated to poor practices of sterilization and disinfection. This might be due the fact that the small number of study participants’. In opposite to this study, Chanda et al.
] showed that barbers in the high-class peripheral areas were more likely to practice appropriate equipment decontamination than those from lower-class. Inappropriate practices may be due to lack of practical knowledge about decontamination and potency of disinfectants. In another study even the barbers working in shops in high-class areas had less than secondary level education and most barbers started their practice at a very young age of 10–12 years which limits their knowledge about transmission of diseases from the instruments used [16
]. A barber’s profession is closely linked to the beliefs of an individual [27
] and traditional and low-paid barbers in many developing countries earn their livelihood by providing shaving and hairdressing services in the marketplace and on the street side [15
]. Such similar findings showed that although almost all socio-demographic variables were not associated to the practices of barbering in the current study, they could play pivotal role for poor or good practices.