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RHO archives : Topics : Adolescent Reproductive Health

Table 1.Ten Characteristics of Effective Sex- and HIV-Education Programs

The curricula of the most effective sex and HIV education programs share ten common characteristics. These programs:

  1. Focus on reducing one or more sexual behaviors that lead to unintended pregnancy or HIV/STI infection.
  2. Are based on theoretical approaches that have been demonstrated to influence other health-related behavior and identify specific important sexual antecedents to be targeted.
  3. Deliver and consistently reinforce a clear message about abstaining from sexual activity and/or using condoms or other forms of contraception. This appears to be one of the most important characteristics that distinguishes effective from ineffective programs.
  4. Provide basic, accurate information about the risks of teen sexual activity and about ways to avoid intercourse or use methods of protection against pregnancy and STIs.
  5. Include activities that address social pressures that influence sexual behavior.
  6. Provide examples of and practice with communication, negotiation, and refusal skills.
  7. Employ teaching methods designed to involve participants and have them personalize the information.
  8. Incorporate behavioral goals, teaching methods, and materials that are appropriate to the age, sexual experience, and culture of the students.
  9. Last a sufficient length of time (that is, more than a few hours).
  10. Select teachers or peer leaders who believe in the program and then provide them with adequate training.

Generally speaking, short-term curricula—whether abstinence-only or sexuality education programs—do not have measurable impact on the behavior of teens.

From: Kirby, D. Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy. Washington, DC : National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (May 2001).

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