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Teachers' Knowledge and Attitudes Toward HIV/AIDS Education

February 23, 2001

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 As a result, parts of this article may be outdated.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!

A study in the January issue of the Journal of School Health examines high school teachers' AIDS-related knowledge and attitudes.

Data was collected from 141 high school teachers from nine central Massachusetts high schools in February 1998. Respondents were asked to complete the HIV/AIDS Knowledge and Attitudes Scales for Teachers designed to measure knowledge and assess attitudes related to HIV/AIDS and prevention education. Teachers were also asked questions regarding their teaching experience and academic disciplines.

Respondents included teachers of allied health (both health and physical education teachers), humanities, industrial arts, math and science, special education, and other/unspecified fields. No school nurses, guidance counselors, or other school personnel participated in the study.


Results

Overall Findings
  • 59% of the knowledge questions were answered correctly.

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  • Allied health teachers answered 78% of the questions correctly. In comparison, teachers from other disciplines answered 55 to 59% of the questions correctly.

Knowledge Scale

  • 83% of female respondents and 79% of male respondents correctly identified the following statement as true: There have been no cases of AIDS spread by students to their teachers or classmates through usual daily contact.

  • 75% of female respondents and 81% of male respondents correctly identified the following statement as false: HIV lives and functions in warm, moist environments for days outside the body.

  • 70% of female respondents and 70% of male respondents correctly identified the following statement as false: AIDS is an infectious disease caused by bacteria.

  • 67% of female respondents and 68% of male respondents correctly identified the following statement as false: The number of HIV-infected persons will be decreasing during the next two years.

  • 62% of female respondents and 79% of male respondents correctly identified the following statement as false: It is possible to detect HIV antibodies in the bloodstream immediately after becoming infected.

  • 61% of female respondents and 43% of male respondents correctly identified the following statement as true: Two disorders found in persons with AIDS are pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and Kaposi's sarcoma.

  • 43% of female respondents and 60% of male respondents correctly identified the following statement as true: In recent years, adolescents are among groups with the largest increase in HIV infection.

Attitude Scale

  • 99% of female respondents and 100% of male respondents "agreed or strongly agreed" with the following statement: I would support including AIDS education in the curriculum in a school where I was teaching.

  • 88% of female respondents and 73% of male respondents "agreed or strongly agreed" with the following statement: I believe it is the regular elementary classroom teacher's responsibility to teach AIDS education.

  • 86% of female respondents and 88% of male respondents "agreed or strongly agreed" with the following statement: I feel that more time should be spent teaching future teachers about HIV/AIDS in college courses.

  • 71% of female respondents and 78% of male respondents "agreed or strongly agreed" with the following statement: I feel that I could comfortably answer students' questions about HIV/AIDS.

The study found that allied health teachers possessed a fairly good understanding of HIV/AIDS while teachers in other disciplines had significantly less knowledge. The authors note that health teachers are most likely responsible for formal HIV/AIDS education but that students may seek advice from a trusted teacher in another discipline. Although teachers in other disciplines stated that they could comfortably answer students' questions about HIV/AIDS, the data suggest that the accuracy of their responses may be questionable.

Teachers' attitudes toward HIV/AIDS were generally positive. Results indicated a direct relationship between teachers' knowledge of HIV/AIDS and positive or supportive attitudes toward HIV/AIDS. Female teachers hold more positive attitudes toward HIV/AIDS than did male teachers.

The study found nearly universal support for AIDS education, with almost all respondents stating they would support AIDS education at their school.

Finally, the authors note that most respondents believed prospective teachers should receive more specific training related to HIV/AIDS. The authors state that these results confirm a need for increased emphasis on teacher training both for pre-service and in-service educators.

For more information:

L. J. Dawson, et al., "The Role of Academic Discipline and Gender in High School Teachers' AIDS-Related Knowledge and Attitudes," Journal of School Health, 71(1), pp. 3-8.

See also "Resources."

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 Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It is a part of the publication SHOP Talk: School Health Opportunities and Progress Bulletin.
 
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