Title

Adolescents and AIDS: Dealing with Misconceptions

Date of Completion

12-31-1991

Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Carol Smith

Abstract

Many adolescents are at risk for becoming infected with the human immunoideficiency virus (HIV) , which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). This is due to the risk-taking behaviors that are common among young people, including experimentation with drugs and sexual intercourse. Some of the factors that contribute to their decisions to engage in high-risk behaviors may include misconceptions they have regarding HIV/AIDS. In this study a clinical interview was designed to determine the prevalence of three misconceptions about AIDS among adolescents: 1): the belief that they are invulnerable to the disease; 2) the idea that transmission of HIV occurs through risk groups rather than risk behaviors; and 3) the negative emotional reaction to having casual contact with a person with HIV/AIDS (PWA). The interview was given to twelve high school students in Boston before and ten after they participated in a peer leadership training program using the curriculum Peer Leadership Preventing AIDS, to see if the misconceptions existed and if there was any evidence of conceptual change following the program. Prior to the training program, two subjects held only one misconception, four held two misconceptions held by the subjects. The greatest improvement was in Misconception 2, followed by #1 and then #3. It appears that conceptual change did occur for most of the subjects. This may have been due in part to using the Peer Leadership Preventing AIDS curriculum, since it emphasizes looking at one's self-theory. The participants were encouraged to look deep within themselves and consider their positions on several critical issues, them discuss them with others in the group. This may have facilitated the exchange of conflicting or alternative views. In the areas where the least change occurred in misconceptions, particularly the subjects' emotional reaction to having casual contact with a PWA, suggestions for improving the curriculum were made. In addition, areas for further study were proposed, including a larger sample with representatives from a variety of peer leadership programs (school- and community-based, urban, suburban and rural areas, etc.) a follow-up interview six to twelve months after completion of the training program and interviews of young people who interacted with the peer leaders.

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