Parents' Attitudes and Beliefs about HIV AIDS Prevention with Condom Availability in New York City Public High Schools

Article excerpt

Young adult cases of AIDS (ages 20-29) account for some 20% of AIDS cases nationwide.[1] Most of these young adult cases probably were contracted during the teen-age years.[2] Not only is HIV known to be present among the U.S. adolescent population but transmission of HIV during adolescence likely will rise dramatically due to several factors: more than half of all teens are sexually active; most HIV-positive teens do not know their serostatus; and the vast majority of sexually active teens do not use condoms.[2-5] To prevent this new epidemic, the New York City Board of Education in 1992 expanded its HIV/AIDS education program to include condom availability in every public high school.

Condom availability programs across the nation have met with opposition and controversy,[6] even in New York City (NYC), one of the AIDS epicenters of the nation.[7] While parents, public health officials, and school administrators speculated about the actual impact of condom programs on sexual behavior, a paucity of data exists on their impact within a public school setting.[8,9] In 1993, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided funding for an evaluation of the impact of adding condom availability to an HIV/AIDS education program in New York City public high schools. The study measured impact of the program on student knowledge, attitudes, and behavior with respect to condom use and HIV/AIDS risk reduction, as well as monitored and assessed parental knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs regarding HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS education, teen sexuality, and condom availability programs.

In fall and winter 1993, the first wave of data were collected from students, teachers, administrators, and parents from 12 randomly selected New York City public high schools. This paper reports findings from the first wave of data from the parent survey, a total of 716 parents from the 12 schools, and selected material from 12 focus groups with 81 parents, held at six of the 12 schools.



The 12 schools were chosen randomly from all public high schools, stratified by type of school (academic, vocational, and alternative) and by income levels (as measured by percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches). Post sample selection analysis of schools determined that the sample represented the range of schools within the NYC school system with respect to type of school, family income, number of students, and borough of location. In addition, preliminary data indicated that the sample included schools with extensive and active HIV/AIDS education and condom availability programs, as well as schools that met only the minimum requirements of the NYC Board of Education for HIV/AIDS education and condom availability.

Several methods were tested to draw the widest, most representative parent sample possible from each of the 12 schools including mail, telephone, and in-person surveys. Based on the pilot tests and a review of other studies that attempted to reach parents, it was determined that the parent sample would be drawn from parents who attended any school function such as open house, parent-teacher night, or PTA meeting during fall 1993. Staff in the study schools state that attendance varies dramatically by school, ranging from 5% to 80% of parents actually attending these school functions at any one time. This targeted group, however, is comprised of parents more heavily involved with their children's school. Their opinions, attitudes, and beliefs may be more likely to be those heard by school boards, principals, and other policymakers and therefore represent a valuable source of information with important policy implications.

Data assistants approached parents as they entered the school building for the event. Parents were asked to complete the survey "on the spot" or on their way out of the building. Attempts were made to reach nearly every parent who entered the building. Under the circumstances it was not possible to enumerate the parents who attended the school functions, but data collection staff estimated that approximately 80% of the parents who attended were approached and 90% of those participated. …