guaranteed to receive fundamental information about AIDS, and those communities that prefer to augment the school-based HIV prevention program or core curricula are, of course, free to do so.
We can prevent the spread of HIV infection among the adolescent population. To do so, however, we must vigorously educate adolescents about high-risk sexual and IV drug practices and dispel misconceptions, such as the myth that AIDS can be spread by casual contact. Teachers play a vital role in this mission. Properly trained, they can become powerful change agents in influencing adolescents to avoid high-risk practices. Well-designed and executed evaluations will permit constant monitoring of program effectiveness, as well as identification of new gaps in knowledge. And, perhaps most important, public policy must mandate HIV prevention programs so they reach all adolescents, whether they reside in high-density AIDS epicenters like San Francisco and New York City or in communities which are, at present, considered low-risk areas.
If we are to successfully confront the challenge of AIDS, HIV risk-reduction programs targeted at adolescents will play a major role. Adolescents' health and the welfare of society in general depend on the prompt development and implementation of these programs. Only by mounting a systematic and concerted school-based HIV prevention education campaign will we be able to combat the growing threat of increased morbidity and mortality among the adolescent population.
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