HIV Prevention Education

Blog Post- Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog

My last post was on the need for sex education. In California, even though comprehensive sex education is not mandatory for all school districts, providing HIV prevention education to all students is required. The development of an HIV prevention program is up to local districts, but some very strict requirements mandate that this instruction informs students of many of the health risks and behavioral choices that will reduce teen pregnancy and disease transmission.

I’ve been studying this topic in great detail, and have found many interesting statistics and facts along the way. This information does not represent the policy or attitudes of my school district, nor does it represent any kind of requirement on teachers. These are merely concepts to be considered during the development of a successful program.

HIV Prevention Education Key Points

1) HIV is a great threat, affecting over a million people in the U.S. Heterosexual transmission is accounting for more of the new cases. Many new cases are amongst teens and young adults. HIV rates in Santa Barbara County, fortunately, are relatively low.

2) Teen pregnancy rates (and rates of intercourse) nationwide have been falling significantly since their peak around 1988. Great disparities exist between races, with Latina teens universally having the highest rates. The current rate for Latinas in Santa Barbara County is one of the highest rates in the State of California (9%). By comparison, however, this rate is better than the rate for teens overall in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.

3) Youth are engaged in risky behaviors at high rates, including oral, anal, and vaginal sex, with 61% of teens reporting that they used a condom during last intercourse. The rate of condom use, though, is actually much higher than it used to be, and has risen steadily in the last several years. In 1991, the rate of condom use in last intercourse was only 46%.

4) Under the law, HIV prevention education is part of the statute with the following purpose: “To provide a pupil with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect his or her sexual and reproductive health from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.” AND “To encourage a pupil to develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender roles, sexual orientation, dating, marriage, and family.”

5) Abstinence-only education is illegal in California. HIV prevention programs must emphasize that abstinence as the only 100% effective method of preventing HIV, STDs, and pregnancy, but also must teach that condoms are highly effective and should be used during any sexual activity. Instruction must also specifically teach the means of transmission of HIV: anal, oral, and vaginal sex, contact with blood, and intravenous drug use.

6) Instruction must be free of religious doctrine, and provided free of bias to GBLTQ (gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, and questioning) youth.

7) STD’s, their symptoms, and means of transmission must be included in HIV prevention programs. (This point may not be clear when studying California law as written, it appears to be omitted from HIV prevention education requirements when not part of a comprehensive se education program. However, there is additional guidance and justification for including all STD’s in any HIV prevention curriculum. I will hopefully address this item in a later post, along with a recommendation to the legislature to revise the statute to match the necessary practice.)

8) HIV prevention education must include lessons on behavior and decision making, as well as identifying and avoiding risky situations, and developing refusal skills.

9) HIV prevention education does not cover topics such as contraception other than male and female condoms, abortion, nor other issues relevant to pregnancy, birth, prenatal care, or human development.

10) California Health and Science standards provide strong direction for the instruction that should be included in an HIV prevention unit.

11) The Red Cross Positive Prevention Curriculum was developed in conjunction with health agencies and the California Department of Education to specifically meet all the requirements of the HIV prevention requirement, without including content specific to Comprehensive Sex Education.


2 Responses

  1. Thanks for raising this issue…Excellent points! If we are to ensure a healthy society it must begin with education and awareness. Our schools are ‘public spaces’ that have the greatest access to young people daily, thus it is imperative for schools to expose our youth to information that will enable them to make informed, safe and healthy decisions. This is not just an American issue it is a global issue. We must voice our opinion now.

  2. This makes me happy to live in California – I especially appreciate the part about teaching refusal skills, lessons on behavior and decision making. I recall our so-called “sex-ed” in Ohio where it was “here’s the basic gist of your body part, here’s what can happen to it if you have sex, moving on because this is too embarrassing, and btw, Magic Johnson has HIV.”

    And then parents and other authority figures are upset and surprised when kids go out and have sex, contract diseases and get pregnant. I plan always to have an open, ongoing conversation with my kids about sex, but I appreciate having the support of the school system in CA, especially on finer points of risks that we might miss at home.

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