Education to prevent AIDS: prospects and obstacles

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Science  05 Feb 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4840, pp. 592-596
DOI: 10.1126/science.3340845


A number of obstacles thwart effective education to prevent AIDS in the United States. These include the biological basis and social complexity of the behaviors that must be changed, disagreement about the propriety of educational messages to prevent AIDS, uncertainty about the degree of risk to the majority of Americans, and dual messages of reassurance and alarm from responsible officials. Long-term protection of an individual from infection requires extreme changes in risk-taking behavior. Partial shifts toward safer practices may be epidemiologically important in retarding the rate and extent of spread of infection. Though some striking changes in behavior have occurred, especially in homosexual populations in areas with high prevalence of AIDS, educational efforts to date have succeeded more in raising awareness and knowledge about AIDS than in producing sufficient changes in behavior. The United States has yet to mount a nationwide comprehensive, intensive, and targeted education program to prevent AIDS.