The urgent demand for information, education, and prevention campaigns has arisen out of our inability to cure or immunize against AIDS. Three important tasks face behavioral scientists specializing in AIDS prevention. The first task is to direct intensive applied research for high-risk individuals to develop a means of obtaining and maintaining changes in the behaviors that put them at high risk for AIDS. The second is to develop a social learning theory-based AIDS prevention system for moderate risk people which provides for both factual information and reliable social and personal reinforcements for producing and maintaining the desired behavior changes. On a population basis, even limited intervention, if clearly conceptualized, targeted, and directed at a large number of people can serve to reduce the cumulative risk. The third is to design innovative media efforts to educate the low risk population to reduce misinformation, fear, and prejudice. Public health and medical professionals and the media should cooperate with behavioral scientists to implement effective systems for AIDS-prevention education. All must expect the behavioral interventions to be long-term efforts in order to maintain the behavior changes necessary to prevent the transmission of HIV. The behavioral scientists also need to establish realistic expectations in themselves and in other health professionals, educators, and the general public of the potential impact of these infections in reducing the spread of infection.
Social and behavioral sciences have long studied risk-taking and health behavior patterns (e.g., Hall, Rugg, Tunstall & Jones, 1984; Hovell, Elder, Blanchard, & Sallis, 1986; Hunt, Barnett, & Branch, 1971; Gentry & Matarazzo, 1981; Matarazzo, 1980; Pomerleau & Brady, 1979; Stone, Adler, & Cohen, 1979). This knowledge may be directly applicable to the prevention and control of AIDS. A growing interest between fields of public health and behavioral science to combine their respective paradigms should enhance the effectiveness of disease prevention strategies. Traditionally, these efforts have found social learning theory programs to be the most successful in the prevention and control of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease ( Elder, Hovell, Lasater, Wells, & Carleton, 1985; Farquhar, Maccoby, Wood, Alexander, et al., 1977). It is most reasonable to expect that expanded social learning theory will be even more critical for the prevention and control of AIDS.
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