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J Assoc Nurses AIDS Care. 1998 Sep-Oct;9(5):61-72.

Practice what we preach? HIV knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors of adolescents and adolescent peer educators.

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University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing, USA.


The purpose of this article is to (a) describe the knowledge, beliefs, and sexual behaviors of urban adolescents and adolescent peer educators, and (b) identify elements needed to design effective HIV/AIDS prevention programs for out-of-school youth. Thirty-three predominantly African American adolescents (female = 14; male = 19) between the ages of 14 and 24 in a large urban city including adolescent (n = 18) and adolescent peer educators (n = 15) participated. Paper-and-pencil questionnaire and focus-group interviewing methods were used. Adolescents and adolescent peer educators had a moderately high level of HIV knowledge, confidence in their ability to use condoms, and beliefs that condom use would not decrease sexual pleasure or imply infidelity. Both groups reported low perceptions of susceptibility of HIV infection. Engagement in sexual risk behavior was low, but was significantly higher among males. Although adolescent male peer educators engaged in a higher frequency of risk behaviors over time, they had a lower frequency of sexual risk behaviors in the past 2 months compared with male adolescents. Study findings showed that HIV prevention interventions need to include information about specific risk behaviors, such as using condoms for oral sex, and cleaning drug paraphernalia. Community-based and church programs, visible HIV prevention messages, specifically those aimed at increasing perceptions of HIV risk, and the development of condom-use skills were identified by adolescents and adolescent peer educators as relevant approaches to reduce HIV infection among this population.

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