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In 1995, Douglas Kirby, one of the nation's leading experts on adolescent health and director of research at ETR Associates, a nonprofit education and research group, analyzed close to 50 studies on the effectiveness of school-based sex education curricula. He identified nine classroom strategies that can help reduce risky sexual behaviors among young people. Programs should:

  • Focus on risk-taking behaviors that may lead to HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy.
  • Provide a theoretical understanding of how behavior can change.
  • Include at least 14 hours of instruction and small-group exercises.
  • Employ a variety of teaching methods--such as role-playing, field trips, and interviewing--that help students personalize information.
  • Offer basic, accurate information about the risks of unprotected sex and the methods of avoiding intercourse.
  • Address social factors, such as peer pressure and media influences, that influence youngsters' sexual behavior.
  • Reinforce clear and appropriate values to strengthen cultural attitudes against unprotected sex.
  • Help students practice communication, negotiation, and refusal skills.
  • Train teachers so they can effectively teach the curricula.

More information about these strategies is provided in Kirby's report, A Review of Educational Programs Designed To Reduce Sexual Risk-Taking Behaviors Among School-Aged Youth in the United States. Copies are available for $10 each from ETR Associates, Research Department, P.O. Box 1830, Santa Cruz, CA 95061-1830; (408) 438-4060.

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