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HIV Prevention Education for Exceptional Youth:
This document has been retired from the active collection
HIV Prevention Education is
of the ERIC Clearinghouse
on Disabilities and Gifted Education.
It contains references or resources that may
no longer be valid or up to date.
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education
ERIC EC Digest #E507
In the well-known Surgeon General's Report on AIDS (1987), C.
Koop highlighted the need for HIV prevention education by
"Adolescents and pre-adolescents are those whose behavior we wish
especially influence because of their vulnerability when they are
exploring their own sexuality (heterosexual and homosexual) and
perhaps experimenting with drugs. Teenagers often consider
immortal, and these young people may be putting themselves at
risk." Indeed, statistics of sexual activity among teenagers
that half of all teenage girls in high school have had sexual
intercourse, and 16 percent have had four or more partners.
many adolescents do not consider drugs such as cocaine and
to increase their risk for acquiring HIV infection because they
not taken intravenously, but they do not consider that these
reduce their inhibitions and lead to poor decision making.
The Virginia Department of Education's Family Life Education
Curriculum (1991) describes some of these factors which increase
special education students vulnerability for not only HIV
but other sexually transmitted diseases, sexual abuse, and teen
pregnancy as well:
- Knowledge. Students with disabilities
are generally less
knowledgeable than other students about their bodies and their
sexuality. This leads to poor decision-making related to their
sexuality and an inability to protect themselves. This lack of
information can be attributed to the following causes:
- They have generally been excluded from sex
- Parents, who are sometimes uncomfortable
to their children, often feel even more insecure teaching a
child who has a
- Many students do not know when and whom to ask
for help and
may lack the cognitive or communication skills
necessary for asking questions.
- Students are often unable to get information
materials, because few publications are written on
their reading level.
- Misinformation. Some students with
disabilities are more likely
than other students to believe myths and misinformation because
are unable to distinguish between reality and unreality. They may
become easily confused or frightened by misinformation.
- Social Skills. Students with disabilities
may have limited
opportunity for social development. Their chances to observe,
and practice social skills are limited or nonexistent. Many
do not have such basic social skills as knowing how to greet
and how to show affection appropriately.
- Power and Control. Some students with
disabilities are easily
influenced by others. These students may do whatever others
without question, due to their dependency and desire to please.
- Self-Esteem. Students receiving special
education services may
have low self-esteem. In an effort to be accepted by others or to
attention (either positive or negative) students with low
are more likely than other students to participate in risky
- Judgment. Students in special education may
have poor judgment,
poor decision-making skills, and poor impulse control. Without
instruction, they are unable to recognize the consequences of
Status of Prevention Education for Special
In an unpublished (as of August, 1991) survey of 2,150 school
districts, the National School Boards Association (NSBA)
that 67 percent of respondents require some form of HIV
education for their students. HIV Education Specialists from the
Centers for Disease Control estimate that by the year 2000, 75
of the nation's school districts will provide planned sequential
education from Kindergarten through Grade 12. At present, most
districts teach about HIV prevention within the health education
Unfortunately, many special education students who are not in
mainstream classes do not participate in health education. The
survey indicates that 80 percent of students with learning
disabilities, i.e., those likely to be mainstreamed, receive HIV
prevention education; however, only 46 percent of those with
mental retardation receive similar instruction. Seventy percent
students with communication disorders receive instruction in HIV
prevention, but the proportion drops to 21 percent for students
autism. Approximately 49 percent of the students with emotional
disturbance receive instruction aimed at changing behaviors that
students at risk for HIV infection.
Purpose of Effective Education about Aids
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the main
of education about HIV and AIDS is to prevent HIV infection.
goals of HIV prevention education are to (a) help students learn
to resist social influence to engage in risk-taking behavior, (b)
increase students' perceptions of their ability to adopt
self-protective behaviors, and (c) create an environment
candid discussion of sensitive topics. (DiClemente &
The Center for Disease Control's Guidelines for Effective
School Health Education to Prevent the Spread of Aids state
systems should make programs available that will enable and
young people who have not engaged in sexual intercourse and who
not used illicit drugs to continue to:
- Abstain from sexual intercourse until they are
establish a mutually monogamous relationship within the
context of marriage.
- Refrain from using or injecting illicit
For young people who have engaged in sexual intercourse
or who have
injected illicit drugs, school programs should enable and
- Stop engaging in sexual intercourse until they
are ready to
establish a mutually monogamous relationship within the
context of marriage.
- Stop using or injecting illicit drugs.
Despite all efforts, some young people may remain unwilling to
behavior that would virtually eliminate their risk of becoming
infected. Therefore, school systems, in consultation with parents
health officials, should provide AIDS education programs that
preventive types of behavior that should be practiced by persons
an increased risk of acquiring HIV infection. These include:
- Avoiding sexual intercourse with anyone who is known
infected, who is at risk of being infected, or whose HIV
infection status is not
- Using a latex condom with spermicide if they engage in
- Seeking treatment if addicted to illicit drugs.
- Not sharing needles or other injection equipment.
- Seeking HIV counseling and testing if HIV infection is
For all students, HIV prevention education should focus on
behavior and the linkage to HIV infection. The aim is not to
fear but to (a) enhance students' receptivity to the notion of
modifying their personal behaviors and (b) increase their
to adopt and maintain changes in their behaviors. For special
education students, in particular, it is important to emphasize
choices individuals can and should make. Learning activities
give students the opportunity to role play situations where they
to make choices and communicate their decisions to others.
education students require instruction and practice in
techniques, including skills for negotiation and resistance to
pressure. Instruction should also include resources that students
contact to obtain more information and help (NSBA, 1990).
The content of this digest was developed with funds provided by a
cooperative agreement with the Division of Adolescent and School
Health, Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health
Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA 30333. The project
Aids Education: Interdisciplinary, Multicultural Approaches for
Students and Teachers, is aimed at advancing skills and knowledge
the area of HIV prevention. CEC had a subcontract with the
for the Advancement of Health Education (AAHE) to deal with the
special education component.
DiClemente, R. J. & Houston-Hamilton, A. (1989). "Health
Strategies for Prevention of Human Immunodeficiency Virus
among Minority Adolescents." In Health Education, 20(5), 39-43.
Family Life Education: Effective Instruction for Students in
Education (1991). Richmond, VA: Virginia Department of Education,
Division of Special Education Programs.
"Guidelines for Effective School Health Education to Prevent the
Spread of AIDS (1988)." Centers for Disease Control
and Mortality Weekly Report. 37(S-2) 4-8.
Reducing the Risk: A School Leader's Guide to AIDS Education
Alexandria, VA: National School Boards Association, HIV and AIDS
Surgeon General's Report on AIDS - U.S. Dept. of Health and Human
Services, U.S. Public Health Services, 1987.
Bigge, J. L. (1991). Teaching Individuals with Physical and
Disabilities (3rd ed.) Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill.
Byrom, E., & Katz, G. (1991). HIV Prevention and AIDS Education:
Resources for Special Educators. Reston, VA: The Council for
Caldwell, T. H., Sirvis, B., Todaro, A. W., & Alcouloumre, D. S.
(1991) Special Health Care in the School. Reston, VA: The Council
Columbus, Ohio Health Department, AIDS Program (1990). Aids
Education Teaching Guide. Columbus Health
181 Washington Boulevard, Columbus, OH 43215.
Kaiser, M. (1988) "Educating Children about AIDS." In Pediatric
Review, 2 (9), 2-4.
Rubenstein, A. (1987) "Supportive Care and Treatment for
AIDS." In Report of the Surgeon General's workshop on children
HIV infection and their families (pp. 19-31). Washington, DC:
Department of Health and Human Services.
ERIC Digests are in the public domain
and may be freely
disseminated, but please acknowledge your source. This
publication was prepared with
funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of
Educational Research and
Improvement, under contract no. RI88062207. The opinions
expressed in this report do
not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the
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