C.D.C. Urges AIDS Instruction in Every Grade

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Washington--The Centers for Disease Control last week issued aids-education guidelines that call for teaching about the disease "at each grade level."

The long-awaited 14-page document, contained in the federal agency's Jan. 29 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is expected to be influential among educators. The agency's previous recommendations for school officials on dealing with students who have the disease were widely adopted.

In a related development, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, speaking Thursday at an interna4tional conference on aids, said that health officials hoped to screen students at a large, urban university to gauge the disease's prevalence among young adults. The tests might also include high-school students, wire reports said, but that could not be confirmed last week.

The new teaching guidelines say that, in each community, the aids-education program can be developed by representatives of the school board, parents, school administrators and faculty, school health groups, religious organizations, and other relevant organizations.

Such instruction "may be most appropriate and effective" if delivered within a more comprehensive8health-education program, according to the plan--rather than through single assemblies, films, or lectures.

"However, education about aids should be provided as rapidly as possible, even if it is taught initially as a separate subject," the guidelines add.

At the elementary-school level, where students often have one regular classroom teacher for all subjects, the cdc recommends training that particular teacher to provide aids instruction as well.

"That person ideally should be trained and experienced in child development, age-appropriate teaching methods, child health, and elementary health-education methods and materials," the report says.

The agency recommends that a health educator teach about aids at the middle- or high-school levels.

But the document makes no recommendations on the age at which such instruction should begin, saying only that "most adult Americans recognize the early age at which youth need to be advised about how to protect themselves from becoming infected" with the virus.

In what may potentially be its most controversial advice, the cdc also says that students who "despite all efforts" engage in sex or drug-use should be told that "using a latex condom with spermicide" and "not sharing needles" will lessen their risk of contracting the disease.

The set of guidelines issued separately by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett in October sought to downplay any preventative benefits of condoms. (See Education Week, Oct. 14, 1987.)

Critics of Mr. Bennett's handbook said it ignored the fact that many teen-agers are already having sex.

Both guides, however, stress that children must first be taught that the only sure ways to avoid the disease are by postponing sexual intercourse until marriage, establishing a monogamous relationship, and refusing to take intravenous drugs.

The cdc guide also offers recommendations on what information about the disease should be conveyed at what age levels. In early elementary school, for example, children can learn, it says, that "aids is a disease that is causing some adults to get very sick, but it does not commonly affect children."

According to the document, they might also be taught that: "aids is very hard to get. You cannot get it just by being near or touching someone who has it."

"It's a very practical document for teachers," said Ric Loya, the founder of the California Association of Health Educators and a consultant on the guide.

"I was so worried that it was going to get watered down, but it held its own," he added. "I'm glad it finally came out."

The planning, development, and review of the guidelines took more than a year. In October, Representative Ted Weiss, Democrat of New York and chairman of the House Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs and Human Resources, said interagency squabbles over the "moral" content of the guidelines had contributed to the long delay.

But Jack T. Jones, director of the cdc's school-health-education program, has said that the delay reflected the long review process, which involved both federal officials and outside organizations and consultants.

The 15 national organizations and federal agencies that reviewed the guidelines included:

The American Academy of Pediatrics; the American Association of School Administrators; the American Public Health Association; the American School Health Association; the Association for the Advancement of Health Education; the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers; the National Congress of Parents and Teachers; the National Council of Churches; the National Education Association; the National School Boards Association; the Society of State Directors of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance; the U.S. Education Department; the Food and Drug Administration; and the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Vol. 07, Issue 19

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