HIV Prevention Classes More Effective Prior to First Sexual Experience, Study Says
HIV prevention classes are more effective if they reach children before they become sexually active, according to a study in the October issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Reuters Health reports. About 4,000 ethnically diverse middle and high school-aged students from 10 schools took part in the study, which compared the effects of the Rochester AIDS Prevention Project for Youth, a "specially designed" HIV and STD prevention program that begins with lessons on general decision making before progressing to HIV/AIDS prevention, with traditional health classes. Students were interviewed before taking the class and 10 months later. Researchers found that students who were sexually active when they attended the classes were less likely to indicate that they would practice safe sex in the future, but those who had not yet had sex were more likely to say that they intended to practice safe sex when they did become sexually active. In addition, researchers found that students' "long-term" knowledge about safe sex and STD prevention and their belief in their ability to practice safe sex behavior was higher after participating in the RAPP program. The study's finding "indicates the need to begin testing interventions at younger ages before the transition to unhealthy behavioral choices has already begun," possibly in elementary school, Dr. David Siegel, the study's lead author, said. Sixty-three percent of middle school-aged boys and 30% of middle school-aged girls surveyed said they were sexually active. Drs. Bonita Stanton and Mark Gibson write in an accompanying editorial that the study demonstrates that it is possible to "shape the sexual behavior of teens" and "underscore[s]" the importance of reaching teens both before they are sexually active and after they have had sex (Rostler, Reuters Health, 10/16).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.