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National News

Many Teens Still Can't Tell HIV Fact From Fiction

August 14, 2002

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

Researchers who surveyed 20 junior and senior high school students from two inner-city New York schools found that, despite six hours of HIV education every year in city schools, many students still had difficulty sorting HIV fact from fiction. Some students were unaware that HIV is the virus that causes AIDS; some were unaware HIV is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids; and some referred to HIV and AIDS as two different diseases and thought that one was more dangerous than the other, according to findings presented last Friday by Drs. Alla Keselman and Vimla L. Patel of Columbia University during the 24th annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society in Fairfax, Va.

Part of the problem may be that HIV education classes address HIV risks and prevention but do not address the actual biology of the body's immune system and the virus -- leaving students vulnerable to misinformation, Keselman and Patel said. "With biology taught separately from factual HIV education and introduced in later grades, adolescents have little understanding of the concepts of virus and immune system, which are critical to building accurate conceptual models of HIV," they said.

Of the 20 junior and senior high school students, 11 were categorized as naïve in their knowledge of HIV; six were intermediate; and three were advanced. Nine naïve-level students did not seem to have a basic understanding of the immune system and did not know that HIV is a microorganism that attacks immune system cells; two mentioned dirt as a cause of AIDS and thought not washing after sex was a risk factor. Five intermediate-level, and all advanced-level, students understood the virus' effect on the immune system and recognized it as the precursor to AIDS. Four intermediate-level and nine naïve-level students went along with a myth that HIV could be rid from the body through urine and sweat, though all the advanced students rejected the idea.

"School science instruction can and should play an important role in preparing adolescents for dealing with HIV and other real world issues around sexuality and health," Keselman and Patel said, adding, "'Just say no' campaigns are likely to have minimal effect; maybe it should be 'Say no and know why.'"

Back to other CDC news for August 14, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Reuters Health
08.12.02; Charnicia E. Huggins

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
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More Statistics on Young People and HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

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