ERIC Identifier: ED340151
Publication Date: 1991-11-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and
Gifted Children Reston VA.
HIV Prevention Education for Exceptional Youth: Why HIV
Prevention Education Is Important. ERIC Digest #E507.
In the well-known Surgeon General's Report on AIDS (1987), C. Everett Koop
highlighted the need for HIV prevention education by declaring, "Adolescents and
pre-adolescents are those whose behavior we wish to especially influence because
of their vulnerability when they are exploring their own sexuality (heterosexual
and homosexual) and perhaps experimenting with drugs. Teenagers often consider
themselves immortal, and these young people may be putting themselves at great
risk." Indeed, statistics of sexual activity among teenagers indicate that half
of all teenage girls in high school have had sexual intercourse, and 16 percent
have had four or more partners. Further, many adolescents do not consider drugs
such as cocaine and marijuana to increase their risk for acquiring HIV infection
because they are not taken intravenously, but they do not consider that these
drugs 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 infection but other sexually transmitted
diseases, sexual abuse, and teen pregnancy as well:
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 education programs in
Parents, who are sometimes uncomfortable teaching sexuality 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 from written materials,
because few publications are written on their reading level.
Some students with disabilities are more likely than other students to believe
myths and misinformation because they are unable to distinguish between reality
and unreality. They may also become easily confused or frightened by
SKILLS. Students with disabilities may have limited opportunity for social
development. Their chances to observe, develop, and practice social skills are
limited or nonexistent. Many students do not have such basic social skills as
knowing how to greet others and how to show affection appropriately.
AND CONTROL. Some students with disabilities are easily influenced by others.
These students may do whatever others suggest without question, due to their
dependency and desire to please.
Students receiving special education services may have low self-esteem. In an
effort to be accepted by others or to gain attention (either positive or
negative) students with low self-esteem are more likely than other students to
participate in risky behaviors.
Students in special education may have poor judgement, poor decision-making
skills, and poor impulse control. Without direct instruction, they are unable to
recognize the consequences of their actions.
STATUS OF PREVENTION EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL LEARNERS
unpublished (as of August, 1991) survey of 2,150 school districts, the National
School Boards Association (NSBA) discovered that 67 percent of respondents
require some form of HIV prevention education for their students. HIV Education
Specialists from the Centers for Disease Control estimate that by the year 2000,
75 percent of the nation's school districts will provide planned sequential HIV
education from Kindergarten through Grade 12. At present, most districts teach
about HIV prevention within the health education curriculum.
Unfortunately, many special education students who are not in mainstream
classes do not participate in health education. The NSBA 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 moderate mental retardation receive similar instruction. Seventy
percent of the students with communication disorders receive instruction in HIV
prevention, but the proportion drops to 21 percent for students with autism.
Approximately 49 percent of the students with emotional disturbance receive
instruction aimed at changing behaviors that put students at risk for HIV
PURPOSE OF EFFECTIVE EDUCATION ABOUT AIDS
According to the
Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the main purpose of education about HIV and
AIDS is to prevent HIV infection. Specific goals of HIV prevention education are
to (a) help students learn how 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 conducive to
candid discussion of sensitive topics. (DiClemente & Houston-Hamilton,
The Center for Disease Control's GUIDELINES FOR EFFECTIVE SCHOOL HEALTH
EDUCATION TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF AIDS state that school systems should make
programs available that will enable and encourage young people who have not
engaged in sexual intercourse and who have not used illicit drugs to continue
Abstain from sexual intercourse until they are ready to establish a
mutually monogamous relationship within the context of marriage.
Refrain from using or injecting illicit drugs.
For young people who have engaged in sexual intercourse or who have injected
illicit drugs, school programs should enable and encourage them to:
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 adopt behavior
that would virtually eliminate their risk of becoming infected. Therefore,
school systems, in consultation with parents and health officials, should
provide AIDS education programs that address preventive types of behavior that
should be practiced by persons with an increased risk of acquiring HIV
infection. These include:
Avoiding sexual intercourse with anyone who is known to be 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 sexual
Seeking treatment if addicted to illicit drugs.
Not sharing needles or other injection equipment.
Seeking HIV counseling and testing if HIV infection is suspected.
For all students, HIV prevention education should focus on personal behavior
and the linkage to HIV infection. The aim is not to cause fear but to (a)
enhance students' receptivity to the notion of modifying their personal
behaviors and (b) increase their motivation to adopt and maintain changes in
their behaviors. For special education students, in particular, it is important
to emphasize the choices individuals can and should make. Learning activities
should give students the opportunity to role play situations where they have to
make choices and communicate their decisions to others. Special education
students require instruction and practice in assertiveness techniques, including
skills for negotiation and resistance to peer pressure. Instruction should also
include resources that students can contact to obtain more information and help
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 Promotion, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta,
GA 30333. The project entitled, AIDS EDUCATION: INTERDISCIPLINARY, MULTICULTURAL
APPROACHES FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS, is aimed at advancing skills and knowledge
in the area of HIV prevention. CEC had a subcontract with the Association for
the Advancement of Health Education (AAHE) to deal with the special education
DiClemente, R. J. & Houston-Hamilton, A.
(1989). "Health Promotion Strategies for Prevention of Human Immunodeficiency
Virus Infection among Minority Adolescents." In Health Education, 20(5), 39-43.
Family Life Education: Effective Instruction for Students in Special
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 MMWR--Morbidity and Mortality Weekly
Report. 37(S-2) 4-8.
Reducing the Risk: A School Leader's Guide to AIDS Education (1990).
Alexandria, VA: National School Boards Association, HIV and AIDS Education
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 Multiple
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 Exceptional
Caldwell, T. H., Sirvis, B., Todaro, A. W., & Alcouloumre, D. S. (1991)
Special Health Care in the School. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional
Columbus, Ohio Health Department, AIDS Program (1990). Aids
Education--Supplemental Teaching Guide. Columbus Health Department, 181
Washington Boulevard, Columbus, OH 43215.
Kaiser, M. (1988) "Educating Children about AIDS." In Pediatric Review, 2
Rubenstein, A. (1987) "Supportive Care and Treatment for Pediatric AIDS." In
Report of the Surgeon General's workshop on children with HIV infection and
their families (pp. 19-31). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human