Forum Addresses HIV Education for Children and Youth with Special Education Needs

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Forum Addresses HIV Education for Children and Youth with Special Education Needs

The Association for the Advancement of Health Education and the Council for Exceptional Children, as part of a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control, convened a forum regarding AIDS education for children and youth with handicaps Jan. 31 - Feb. 2, 1989. Representatives from more than 50 organizations participated in the "National Forum on HIV/AIDS Prevention Education for Children and Youth with Special Education Needs." I represented the American School Health Association at the forum, and am pleased to present to ASHA members and Journal readers the three objectives of the forum and a summary of the preliminary findings.

Objective 1: Determine the extent to which children and youth with handicaps are at risk for HIV infection.

After much discussion, it was a consensus of the group that handicapped children and youth are at a greater risk for HIV infection due to: increased potential for sexual abuse; increased likelihood for acute medical intervention; increased susceptibility to peer pressure that may make them more likely to engage in risk behaviors; increased risk for behaviors that involve bleeding such as biting and head banging; impulsivity -the inability to think through intense situations; and the belief of invulnerability, "it will never happen to me." In addition, oversimplification of HIV infection information may create misinformation and an increased sense of invulnerability regarding the transmission and spread of HIV. Participants also acknowledged that some special education students may not receive any HIV education.

In addition, employment opportunities may place individuals with handicaps at a greater risk for HIV infection. For example, individuals employed in janitorial services in health care settings may be at a greater risk of infection due to exposure to infectious wastes.

Objective 2: Identify the most appropriate curricular delivery approaches to meeting the HIV prevention education needs of children and youth with handicaps.

Some general observations from the discussion in this area could be applied to all HIV education efforts. Items identified included: parents need to play an active role in the delivery of HIV education; the quality of teachers is an important issue; curricular materials should be self-contained and fully developed to reduce costs; multiple channels should be used to provide students with consistent messages about HIV; curriculum specialists in school systems are key individuals for integrating HIV infection education; and the responsibility to ensure that HIV education is conducted rests with local education agencies, which need to become educated about HIV infection and develop policy statements that address teaching the topic. …