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Schools Play a Key Role in HIV/STD and Teen Pregnancy Prevention

Female student behind stacks of booksJust as schools are critical settings for preparing students academically, they are also vital partners in helping young people take responsibility for their own health. Learn what schools can do to support HIV/STD prevention and testing.

Why schools?

There are nearly 42 million adolescents in the United States. Of these, 37 million (91%) attend a public or private school for at least 6 hours a day during the most critical years of their social, physical, and intellectual development. After the family home, schools are the primary places responsible for the development of young people. School health education can help teens adopt lifelong attitudes and behaviors that support overall health and well-being—including those that reduce their risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and pregnancy.

HIV, STD, & Teen Pregnancy Prevention

Many young people engage in sexual risk behaviors that can result in unintended health outcomes. For example, among U.S. high school students surveyed in 20131

  • 47% have had sexual intercourse at least once 
  • 34% are currently sexually active 
  • 15% have had four or more sex partners during their life 
  • Only 13% of students had ever been tested for HIV

Sexual risk behaviors place adolescents at risk for HIV infection and other STDs, as well as for unintended pregnancies.

  • Nearly 10,000 young people (aged 13-24) were diagnosed with HIV infection in the U.S. in 2013.2
  • Young gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24) accounted for an estimated 19% (8,800) of all new HIV infections in the United States, and 72% of new HIV infections among youth in 2010.3
  • Nearly half of the 20 million new STDs each year were among young people, between the ages of 15 to 24.4
  • Approximately 273,000 babies were born to teen girls aged 15–19 years in 2013.5
Group of students

Well-designed HIV/STD prevention programs can significantly reduce sexual risk behaviors among teens

What can schools do to support HIV and STD prevention?

Research shows that well-designed, well-implemented HIV/STD prevention programs can significantly reduce sexual risk behaviors among teens. A review of 48 comprehensive curriculum-based sex and STD/HIV education programs found that none of these programs increased the likelihood of teens having sex, while about two-thirds had a significant impact on reducing sexual risk behaviors among young people,6,7 including

  • delay in first sexual intercourse
  • decline in the number of sex partners
  • increase in condom or contraceptive use

What can schools do to support HIV and STD testing?

Making HIV testing a routine part of health care for teens and adults aged 13–64 years is an important strategy recommended by CDC to reduce the spread of HIV.8 HIV testing is also an integral part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which calls for all Americans to be educated about HIV. This includes knowing how HIV is transmitted and prevented, and knowing which behaviors place individuals at greatest risk for infection. To prevent the spread of HIV and improve health outcomes for those who are already infected, HIV awareness and education should be universally integrated into all educational environments.9

State and local education agencies and schools are essential partners in this effort. Schools can help support HIV and STD testing by

  • Teaching students about HIV and other STDs
  • Promoting communication between parents and adolescents
  • Teaching students how to find HIV counseling and testing services
  • Providing referrals to testing, counseling, and treatment services
  • Providing on-site testing for HIV and STDs

What is CDC Doing?

CDC provides funding and assistance that enables state and local education agencies to deliver HIV prevention programs that are scientifically sound and grounded in the latest research on effectiveness. Many of the strategies implemented by schools to prevent HIV infection can also help young people avoid other STDs, as well as pregnancy.

CDC-funded activities include

  • Helping communities collect and analyze data on the sexual risk behaviors of young people to ensure that programs are data driven and responsive to local needs.
  • Implementing HIV/STD prevention programs and curricula that are medically accurate, have evidence of effectiveness, and teach critical knowledge and skills to prevent infection.
  • Providing professional development to ensure that teachers have the knowledge and skills to effectively teach young people how to protect themselves from HIV/STD infection.
  • Ensuring safe and supportive school climates that increase student engagement with schools; reduce discrimination, bullying, and isolation; and decrease the likelihood that students will engage in risky behaviors.
  • Supporting the adoption and implementation of critical policies related to infection control procedures and confidentiality for students and staff with HIV infection.
  • Establishing links to community-based health services that provide testing, counseling, and treatment for HIV and other STDs.

References

  1. CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2013. MMWR, 2014;63(SS-4).
  2. CDC. Diagnoses of HIV infection and AIDS in the United States and dependent areas, 2013. HIV Surveillance Report, Volume 25.
  3. CDC. Estimated HIV incidence in the United States, 2007-2010. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2012;17(No. 4).
  4. Satterwhite CL, et al. Sexually transmitted infections among U.S. women and men: Prevalence and incidence estimates, 2008. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 2013; 40(3): pp. 187-193.
  5. Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK, Curtin SC, Mathews TJ. Births: final data for 2013. National Vital Statistics Report. 2015;64(1).
  6. Kirby D. Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy; 2007.
  7. Kirby D. The impact of abstinence and comprehensive sex and STD/HIV education programs on adolescent sexual behavior. Sexuality Research & Social Policy 2008;5(3):18–27.
  8. CDC. Revised recommendations for HIV testing of adults, adolescents, and pregnant women in health-care settings. MMWR 2006;55(RR-14).
  9. National Association of State Boards of Education. Someone at School Has AIDS: A Complete Guide to Education Policies Concerning HIV Infection. 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Boards of Education; 2001.
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