AIDS Education for African-American and White School Children in One State: African-American Students Received Less

Article excerpt

Introduction

As the HIV/AIDS problem has reached epidemic or pandemic proportions, states are becoming more concerned about education as a means of informing people about the dangers. HIV/AIDS is a major problem in the United States, and even more so in Africa where, according to Bittner, Russo, and Whitaker (2001), 8.7 percent of the African population is infected. AIDS usually or always results in death, and is often sexually transmitted. Thus, adolescent sexual behavior and knowledge are important areas worthy of understanding (Keeling, 1986, 1988; Roscoe & Kruger, 1990; Russell, 1991; Strunin & Higinson, 1987) as they contribute to HIV/AIDS prevention or acquisition.

The state of Louisiana requires AIDS education in all public schools, and some private schools also provide such education. But, what is really being taught? Are there differences due to minority vs. white enrollment in the schools? The present study was a statewide study of AIDS teaching practices in Louisiana.

Finally, minorities have been at increased risk for AIDS, and thus have a higher rate of infection with HIV/AIDS (compared to non-Hispanic whites), often due to intravenous drug usage, homosexual behavior without condoms, or other unsafe sexual practices (Brannon & Feist, 1991; Burson, 1998; Centers for Disease Control, 1989; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1999; Gaw, 1993; Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, 1990). Would predominantly minority schools differ from predominantly white schools with regard to the amount of information provided about the HIV/AIDS problem? If anything, minority schools should teach more about the HIV/AIDS problem than majority schools, since African Americans and Hispanics have a high rate of HIV/AIDS. At the very least, minority schools should offer just as much HIV/AIDS education as the majority schools. But, look at what was previously found to be the case regarding drug education. Shockingly, Eisenman (1993) found that schools with exclusive or predominantly African American student populations were less likely than schools exclusively or predominantly with white students to teach about drugs. Since drugs, especially crack cocaine, have had a horrible effect on many African-American youths and adults, one might have thought there would be more--or at least equal--education about drugs in the African-American schools. But, there was less education.

AIDS Education

The present report on AIDS education is based on data obtained by Denson, Voight, and Eisenman (1993, 1994), looking at variables associated with teaching about HIV/AIDS in the state of Louisiana. Questionnaires were sent to school principals, and they were asked to fill them out and report which areas of content were covered in their school, regarding teachings about HIV/AIDS.

A one page questionnaire, asking about different content areas regarding HIV/AIDS and asking which HIV/AIDS areas were taught, was sent to the principal of 217 schools. The schools were selected in a geographically stratified fashion to reflect the make-up of schools in Louisiana. That is, since about three-fourths of the schools in the state are public, that percentage was chosen for study, with one-fourth of the schools studied being private schools. Likewise, a geographically stratified method was used for such variables as school setting (urban, suburban, rural), and region of the state (northwest, north central, northeast, central, southwest, south central, or southeast). Responses were returned by 98 of the 217 schools, for a response rate of 42.5%. The response rate was lower than what one would, ideally, hope for, but the responses did reflect the wished for geographical stratification. In other words, there was no greater or lesser likelihood for rural schools than urban schools to answer the questionnaire, and so on regarding all the geographical variables mentioned above. The respondents can be thought of as similar to volunteers, since they were the ones who agreed to answer the questions. …