Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Current and Preservice Teachers' Knowledge and Attitudes about HIV Positive Students: Examination in a Southern Rural Community

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Current and Preservice Teachers' Knowledge and Attitudes about HIV Positive Students: Examination in a Southern Rural Community

Article excerpt

This study assessed current and future educators' knowledge of HIV/AIDS and attitudes toward students with HIV/AIDS (SWHAs), including blame of social contact with, managing situations involving SWHAs. Support for mandated and additional HIV/AIDS training at the university level. One hundred, twenty current and preservice elementary and secondary educators (30 per group) responded to the knowledge and attitude survey. Results showed that current teachers reported less willingness for social contact with an HIV positive student compared with preservice teachers (p < .01). Results also showed that younger and more knowledgeable respondents reported more favorable attitudes toward HIV/AIDS training for teachers. Preservice secondary teachers reported more favorable attitudes toward HI V/AIDS training than current secondary teachers (p < .018) and older respondents assigned significantly more blame of an HIV positive student than younger respondents (p < .003). A nationwide comprehensive health education curriculum is advocated for preservice teachers and in-service training for current teachers.

Today HIV/AIDS has spread to American youth at an alarming rate. From 1995 to 1997 HIV infections have increased by 27% in 5 to 12 year olds and by 26% in 13 to 19 year olds (CDC, 1998). Compared with a 19% increase in total HIV infections in the US during the same period, it is clear that youth and adolescents are being disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The increasing number of children infected with HIV/AIDS accentuates the need for effective HIV/AIDS prevention education in our school systems. In a survey of special educators, 88% said they expected to have an HIV positive student in their classroom at some point in their careers (Prater, Serna, Sileo, & Katz, 1995). In addition, because earlier identification and advances in treatment have improved the survival rate of pediatricacquired HIV patients, more of these children will require special education services (Armstrong, Seidel, & Swales, 1993). To deal with the pediatric epidemic in this country, it is critical that teachers have knowledge about HIV/AIDS and skills to foster intellectual growth among all students including those living with HIV/AIDS.

Previous research indicates educators have insufficient knowledge of HIV/AIDS and preconceived misconceptions about HIV positive persons. In a study examining Israeli teachers' attitudes toward students infected with HIV, nearly 40% of the teachers who responded reported they felt an HIV positive student should be kept out of the school system. Sixty-six percent reported they would not perform mouth-tomouth resuscitation on an HIV positive hemophilic student after he or she had stopped breathing on a school field trip (Brook, 1994).

Similar findings in American samples suggest teachers need to learn more about issues affecting HIV positive students (Boscarino & DiClemente, 1996; Ellis & Torabi, 1992; Glenister, Castiglia, Kanski, & Haughey, 1990). Even a majority of American School Health Association members reported the need for more training on HIV issues, more information on developing programs with community based organizations (CBOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and help with defining appropriate HIV/AIDS education in schools (Kerr, Allensworth, & Gayle, 1989). Not surprisingly, the highest levels of discomfort came from discussing issues of homosexuality, bisexuality, explicit sexual behaviors, and death.

Researchers, educators, and physicians have advocated that teachers share the responsibility of educating our youth, particularly adolescents, about HIV and AIDS (e.g., AAP, 1998; Tonks, 1993). A nation-wide survey conducted by the American School Health Association in 1994 showed that nearly 80% of all states and over 80% of all school districts in the US sample require that schools offer HIV prevention education (Collins, et al. …

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