ERIC Identifier: ED279643
Publication Date: 1986-00-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education
AIDS: Are Children at Risk? ERIC Digest 16.
Lack of knowledge and misinformation about Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndrome (AIDS), a fatal disease with no cure or vaccine, has caused widespread
public concern. Education is an effective way to reduce fears and prevent the
spread of the disease (Fulton and others, 1987.) Thus, public school personnel
must have accurate information about AIDS in order to make suitable responses
and decisions. The following question-answer sequence defines AIDS and discusses
the cause, prevalence, transmission, preventive measures, and implications and
policies for the classroom.
WHAT IS AIDS?
AIDS is a condition that prevents the body's immune system from effectively
fighting disease. A person with AIDS is vulnerable to "opportunistic" illnesses
such as serious infections.
WHAT CAUSES AIDS?
AIDS is caused by a virus called human T-lymphotrophic virus, type III
(HTLV-III), most recently known as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Two other
names given to the same virus are lymphadenopathy-associated virus (LAV) and
AIDS-related virus (ARV).
HOW WIDESPREAD IS AIDS?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (1986) indicate that 28,098 AIDS cases
were reported (27,704 adults and 394 children) and 15,757 of these cases had
died as of December 18, 1986. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and more
than 100 of the world's 202 nations have reported cases. The Public Health
Service estimates that as many as two million people in the United States are
infected with AIDS but are asymptomatic. CDC (1986) estimates that there will be
270,000 AIDS cases in the United States by 1991.
Of the 394 AIDS cases CDC (1986) reported among children under 13 years of
1. Seventy-nine percent came from families in which one or both parents had
AIDS or were at increased risk for developing AIDS;
2. Eighty-eight percent were under five years old;
3. Twenty percent of those under five years old were white; 57 percent were
black; and 22 percent were Hispanic;
4. Fifty-five percent of those under five years old were male.
IS AIDS HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS?
The AIDS virus is spread sexually, by the injection of contaminated blood,
and from mother to fetus (Sande 1986). "There's no evidence whatsoever that such
ordinary activities as shaking hands, coughing, sneezing, or even sharing meals,
swimming pools, or toilet seats with infected people present a danger" (Langone
1986). In addition, CDC (1986) states transmission does not occur through insect
bites, eating food, drinking water, or environmental contact. Reed (1986) notes
there has been no AIDS transmission between children.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR CONTRACTING AIDS?
Because of the ways AIDS is transmitted, certain groups have an increased
risk of developing the disease. These include:
1. Homosexual and bisexual men;
2. Intravenous (IV) drug users who share contaminated needles;
3. Persons receiving blood transfusions;
4. Hemophiliacs or persons with coagulation disorders;
5. Infants born to infected mothers;
6. Heterosexuals with multiple sex partners.
WHAT PREVENTIVE MEASURES CAN BE TAKEN AGAINST AIDS?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1986) recommends that the
following steps be taken to prevent the spread of AIDS:
1. Abstain from sexual intercourse with AIDS patients, members of high risk
groups, or people who have tested positive for the AIDS virus.
2. Limit or terminate use of IV drugs. If IV drugs are necessary, do not
share needles with anyone.
3. Limit the number of sexual partners.
4. People at increased risk for AIDS should not donate blood, organs, or
5. Do not share toothbrushes, razors, or other implements that could become
contaminated with blood.
6. Use condoms or other birth control methods that provide protection against
sexually transmitted diseases.
WHAT IMPLICATIONS OF THE AIDS "EPIDEMIC" EXIST FOR THE CLASSROOM TEACHER?
Based on research to date, allowing a child with AIDS to attend public school
poses virtually no threat to the other students. Black (1986) maintains that in
general, "children with AIDS should be allowed to attend school if they are
continent, have no open or oozing lesions, and behave acceptably (they do not
Price (1986) recommends that children with AIDS be provided access to a
school counselor trained in dealing with AIDS patients. The psychological
well-being of students with AIDS is threatened and weakened at least as
dramatically as their physical condition. Trained counselors can help the
students deal with the social and emotional changes that have occurred because
of the disease.
Education about AIDS and effective preventive measures should be incorporated
into the existing health education curriculum in the schools (National School
Boards Association, 1986). In the elementary schools, AIDS prevention should be
a component in the public/community health unit, covered under infectious
disease control. In high schools, AIDS should be a component of the family
life/human sexuality unit and discussed with other sexually transmitted diseases
(STD). The decision of whether to include AIDS in the public health unit or the
family life unit in junior high should be based on sexual activities of students
locally. If junior high students are, or soon will be, sexually active, an AIDS
component must be included in the STD materials. Otherwise, AIDS should be
covered as a public health crisis.
HAS ANY POLICY BEEN ESTABLISHED REGARDING CHILDREN WITH AIDS AND PUBLIC
The American Academy of Pediatrics Committees of School Health and Infectious
Diseases (1986) made the following recommendations regarding children with AIDS
1. "Most school-aged children and adolescents infected with HTLV-III should
be allowed to attend school in an unrestricted manner with the approval of their
personal physician. Based on present data, the benefits of unrestricted school
attendance to these students outweigh the remote possibility that such students
will transmit the infection in the school environment.
2. "Students who lack control of their body secretions, who display behavior
such as biting, or who have open skin sores that cannot be covered require a
more restricted school environment until more is known about the transmission of
the virus. Special education should be provided in these instances as required
3. "School districts should designate individuals, including the student's
physician, who have the qualifications to evaluate whether an infected student
poses a risk to others.
4. "The number of personnel aware of the child's condition should be kept to
the minimum needed to assure proper care of the child and to detect situations
in which the potential for transmission may increase.
5. "All schools should adopt routine procedures for handling blood or body
fluids, including sanitary napkins, regardless of whether students with HTLV-III
infection are known to be in attendance.
6. "The physician of the student with HTLV-III infection should regularly
assess the risk of school attendance to the infected student. Infected students
may develop immunodeficiency, which places them at increased risk of
experiencing severe complications from other infections.
7. "Routine screening of children for HTLV-III is not recommended."
CDC, the National Association, and the National Association of Independent
Schools issued similar guidelines. CDC emphasized that each AIDS case should be
considered separately by a team of professionals, including the attending
physician, public health personnel, the parent or guardian, and school
personnel. For infected preschoolers, handicapped children, children with
uncoverable and oozing lesions, and other specific conditions that would pose a
legitimate risk of spreading the infection, a more controlled environment is
preferred rather than the public school classroom.
Seventeen states have adopted AIDS policies that generally recommend that
schools use review panels to judge each case (Reed, 1986). The guidelines
established by the Connecticut State Department of Education, similar to those
released by CDC, are regarded as a model by several states because they were
developed cooperatively with the State Department of Health.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION ON AIDS?
Further information may be obtained from local and state health departments
or by calling the Public Health Service AIDS hotline number: 1-800-342-AIDS
(Atlanta area callers should call 404-329-1295). Fulton and others (1987) list
other information sources, including organizations, publications, and
FOR MORE INFORMATION
American Academy of Pediatrics' Committees on School Health and Infectious
Diseases. "School Attendance of Children and Adolescents with Human T-
lymphotropic Virus III/Lymphadenopathy-Associated Virus Infection." PEDIATRICS
77(3) 1986: 430-431.
Black, J.L. "AIDS: Preschool and School Issues." JOURNAL OF SCHOOL HEALTH
56(3) 1986: 93-95.
Centers for Disease Control. "Update: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome -
United States." MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY WEEKLY REPORT 35,49 1986: 757-760,
Fulton, Gere B., Eileen Metress, and James H. Price. "AIDS: Resource
Materials for School Personnel." JOURNAL OF SCHOOL HEALTH 57(1) 1987: 14-18.
Langone, J. "AIDS Update: Still No Reason for Hysteria." DISCOVER 7(9) 1986:
National School Boards Association. "AIDS and the Public Schools." LEADERSHIP
REPORTS 1 1986: 49-53.
Price, J.H. "AIDS, The Schools, and Policy Issues." JOURNAL OF SCHOOL HEALTH
56(4) 1986: 137-140.
Reed, S. "AIDS in the Schools: A Special Report." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 67(7)
Sande, M.A. "Transmission of AIDS: The Case Against Casual Contagion." THE
NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE 314(6) 1986: 380-382.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service. FACTS
ABOUT AIDS. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public
Health Service, 1986.