Alabama: Students Learn Ways to Prevent HIV and AIDS
January 2, 2008
The Alabama Department of Education (ADOE) mandates that students in fifth through 12th grades learn about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent its spread, said Nancy Bocchino, a registered nurse and health educator with Madison City Schools. "I'm responsible for ensuring our school system meets this mandatory requirement," said Bocchino. "All instruction is age-appropriate and is done with a strong abstinence message," she said.
For students in 11th and 12th grades, Bocchino brings in guest speakers. "Last year, I brought in speakers from the Alabama Department of Public Health in the [STD] division."
This year, for junior and senior Bob Jones High School students, Bocchino invited Tom Robertson, the department's HIV/AIDS prevention coordinator and an ADOE consultant. "He's a well-known and frequently requested speaker across the country," she said, "for his unique style of motivating teens to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs."
Drama students set up the microphones, lighting and sound, and the Peer Helpers wrote and performed a skit before some 1,400 students, said Bocchino. Peer Helpers "also welcomed students, calmed them down, introduced Robertson and concluded the presentation," she said. The audience was respectful and attentive throughout, she noted.
Bocchino has found in her work that many "teenagers don't feel or want to believe that oral sex is sex," and so ignore it as an STD risk. Teens' prevailing view about HIV/AIDS is "that won't happen to me," she said.
"[Teenagers] think you have to sleep around a lot in order to get infected" with HIV, said Peer Helper Mary Hinson, reflecting on Robertson's presentation. "The speaker's main message was there's no such thing as safe sex," said Peer Helper Brittany Smith.
1.02.2008; Gregg L. Parker
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.