Study Cites 'Exemplary' Programs Against AIDS
Washington--Aids-prevention programs need to address adolescents in ways that young people can easily understand, a new government study concludes.
The General Accounting Office report examines 12 "exemplary" campaigns aimed at three high-risk populations in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco: adolescents, intravenous-drug users, and minorities. Nine of these programs had campaigns specifically geared to adolescents.
Teenagers account for only about 0.4 percent of all aids cases reported as of April 1988, the report notes. But persons in their twenties, many of whom may have been exposed to the virus as teenagers, account for more than one-fifth of the country's total aids caseload.
Programs directed at adolescents, the report notes, should use "readily understandable" messages.
"As one expert put it, educating young people on aids without clearly discussing sex is like 'trying to teach kids about baseball without mentioning the ball and glove,"' the report states.
Successful programs, it says, al4low teenagers to practice such "risk-reduction" skills as resisting pressure to have sex or to try drugs.
The study argues that designers of prevention programs should be mindful of the age of their expected audience. While young children may only need to know about the possible health threats posed by aids, older children should be exhorted to adopt safer behaviors.
The report also recommends that initiatives aimed at teenagers make effective use of advertising on radio, which has a large audience among the young.
Because of their relatively short history, the report notes, few aids-prevention campaigns have been evaluated for effectiveness. The study recommends that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services collect information to measure the relative value of current and future anti-aids efforts.
Copies of the report, "aids Education: Reaching Populations at Higher Risk" (GAO/PEMD-88-35) can be obtained from the U.S. General Accounting Office, P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, Md. 20877, or by calling (202) 275-6241.--ef