Sexual and Reproductive Health: Teens Teaching Teens About Safer Sex Is African Success Story
June 21, 2004
A new study shows that teens may be more receptive to adopting safe sex practices if they learn them from slightly older teens. Sohail Agha, research associate professor of international health and development at Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues evaluated the success of a program in Zambia in which young people ages 18-22 acted as peer educators to high-school kids.Adapted from:
The Society for Family Health implemented the program to reduce risky sexual behavior and HIV transmission among teens. Half of all new HIV infections in Zambia are among people ages 15-19, making teenagers a critical group for HIV prevention strategies. The program's peer educators underwent professional training in HIV transmission education, using messages and skits that emphasized abstinence as well as condom use.
In comparison with teens who received no peer education, peer-educated teens were more likely to have heard about HIV and understand that it is possible for someone who looks healthy to have the virus; more likely to know about abstinence and the use of abstinence in preventing HIV/AIDS transmission; more likely to believe that it is normal for a woman or man to propose abstinence; more likely to approve of condom use and consider it acceptable for both women and men to request their use; and less likely to report multiple sex partners.
"The program showed some success in educating teens about the use of both abstinence and condoms in protecting themselves against HIV," said Agha. "Programs like this could be very helpful in stemming the spread of the HIV epidemic among young adults in Africa if they are used more frequently throughout the teen years," Agha reported. Agha suggested that programs would be more likely to succeed if they focus on a few behavior changes, include accurate information, address social pressures and help teens develop the needed life skills to make the right choices.
The full report, "Impact of a School-Based Peer Sexual Health Intervention on Normative Beliefs, Risk Perceptions, and Sexual Behavior of Zambian Adolescents," was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health (2004;34(5):441-452).