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Questions about AIDS education.

Questions about AIDS education

The federal government's ambitious and extensive new AIDS education effort is unlikely to change the risky sexual behavior of many adolescents and young adults, say researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark. In fact, says psychiatrist Steven E. Keller, "we may be putting the cart way before the horse."

In interviews with 102 young people between the ages of 12 and 25, all of them living in Newark, Keller and his colleagues find the youths know a lot about AIDS. Yet many still engage in sexual activity that courts transmission of the AIDS virus. Sixty sexually active subjects were correct 90 percent of the time on an AIDS questionnaire. Most of them, however, reported "atrisk" activities, such as not using a condom and having sex with casual acquaintances or with people they believed were taking drugs intravenously. Sexually abstinent young people knew no more and no less about AIDS than those who are sexually active, says Keller. Primary sources of AIDS information were school, television and friends.

Subject were not tested for exposure to the AIDS virus.

"You can't alter something as complex as sexual behavior with a passive education program," Keller notes. "The key issue is that high-risk activity is not the result of a simple lack of knowledge."

Researchers need to examine how knowledge is personalized and then put to use, says psychiatrist and study participant Steven J. Schleifer. In the case of AIDS knowledge, he adds, recurrent bouts of depression may interfere with the willingness to change sexual activities. Nearly one-third of young people in the sample reported experiencing severe depression at some time in their lives and 12 percent were depressed when the interviews took place.
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Title Annotation:education fails to affect sexual behavior of young people
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:May 21, 1988
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