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Schools Play Key Role in HIV/STD Prevention

Why schools?

Just as schools are critical settings for preparing students academically, they are also vital partners in helping young people take responsibility for their own health. School health programs can help youth adopt lifelong attitudes and behaviors that support overall health and well-being—including behaviors that can reduce their risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

In the United States, schools have direct contact with more than 50 million students for at least 6 hours a day during 13 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. This gives schools an opportunity to play an important role in HIV and STD prevention.

What can schools do to support HIV and STD prevention?

Photo: Teenage boy and girlResearch shows that well-designed, well-implemented HIV/STD prevention programs can significantly reduce sexual risk behaviors among youth. A review of 48 comprehensive curriculum-based sex and STD/HIV education programs found that about two-thirds of the HIV/STD prevention programs studied had a significant impact on reducing sexual risk behaviors,1-2 including

  • A delay in first sexual intercourse,
  • A decline in the number of sex partners, and
  • An increase in condom or contraceptive use.

None increased the likelihood of having sex.1-2

Schools also can conduct programs to teach youth how to solve problems, communicate with others, and plan for the future. Evidence indicates that such youth asset-development programs can be associated with longer-term reductions in sexual risk behaviors.3

What can schools do to support HIV and STD testing?

Making HIV testing* a routine part of health care for adolescents and adults aged 13–64 years is an important strategy recommended by CDC to reduce the spread of HIV.4 HIV testing is also an integral part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy to prevent the spread of HIV and improve health outcomes for those who are already infected.5

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.

CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH): Supporting HIV and STD Prevention Efforts

Sexual risk behaviors place adolescents at risk for HIV infection and other STDs:

  • In 2010, of the estimated 47,500 new HIV infections in the United States, 12,200 were among youths aged 13–24 years.6
  • Nearly half of the 19 million new STDs each year are among young people aged 15–24 years.7

DASH provides funding and other 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 and unintended pregnancy.

DASH-funded activities include—

  • Implementing HIV/STD prevention curricula that are medically accurate, are consistent with evidence of effectiveness, and teach critical skills such as how to access valid information about HIV and how to develop effective refusal and negotiation skills.
  • Helping communities collect and analyze data on sexual risk behaviors of young people to ensure that programs are data driven and responsive to local needs.
  • Providing state-of-the-art 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 school, 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.

More Information

References

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Gavin L, Catalano R, David-Ferdon C, Gloppen K, Markham C. A review of positive youth development programs that promote adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Journal of Adolescent Health 2010;46:S75–S91.
  4. CDC. Revised recommendations for HIV testing of adults, adolescents, and pregnant women in health-care settings. MMWR 2006;55(RR-14).
  5. 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.
  6. CDC. Vital Signs: HIV infection, testing, and risk behaviors among youths – United States. MMWR 2012:61 (47);971–976.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. STD Trends in the United States, 2010: National Data for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis, Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2011. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats10/trends.htm. (summarized from: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2010. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2011.)
  • Page last reviewed: January 28, 2013
  • Page last updated: January 28, 2013
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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