Aids And Abstinence Essay, Research Paper
Statement of Problem
Growing up as a teenager in today s society is not as easy as it may have been in generations past. Young adults of today s era face many social and environmental issues that plague them with immense stress. For example, violence among youth and, more specifically, school shootings and gang violence strike fear among every adolescent s mind before they face each day at school. And the pressure from peers for using and abusing illegal drugs is as strong as it has ever been. But today, the youth of America are faced with a crisis unique to the modern era; the soaring rate of adolescent AIDS infection.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, causes the terminal Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS weakens the body s immune system to a point where any ordinary infection, such as the flu or common cold, can cause death. Originally thought of as a Gay-Man s disease when AIDS was first prevalent in this country in the early eighties, AIDS is now recognized as a major crisis across the country among heterosexuals, in addition to the homosexual population of this country (Mays, Albee, & Schneider, 1989). And in recent years, the rate of occurrence of AIDS among America s youth has increased at an almost exponential rate. The statistics are startling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the estimated 40,000 new HIV infections occurring each year, over twenty-five percent of those infections occur among youth under the age of twenty. In 1986, 53 adolescents were reported with AIDS. One decade later, the number climbed to 403. And just one year later, in 1997, the number of total cases of adolescent AIDS in the United States reached 2,953 (Fuentes, 1998). Today, AIDS is recognized as the fifth most common cause of death among people ranging from ages 14-24 years (A Decade of Denial: Teens and AIDS in America, 1992).
One obvious negative physiological consequence of an AIDS patient is that he or she is going to die. This is because there is currently no cure for AIDS. Once a person contracts this syndrome, their health will not get better. Their immune system is broken down and deteriorated until, finally, some sort of infection puts the sufferer out of his or her misery and causes death.
After being diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, the patient is subject to many psychological conditions that are detrimental to his or her physical health, too. The patient may develop depression after learning of their illness. There is no current cure for AIDS, so someone with AIDS knows they will die soon. This knowledge of knowing there is no way out leads to the depression. The patient may also develop anxiety from trying to prevent any infection from invading his or her body because the infection may cause death. Another mental condition that may develop from illness is known as the Health Belief Model. The Health Belief Model refers to the variables that predict behavior including the perceived susceptibility or vulnerability to a health threat, severity of consequences of a disease or health threat, effectiveness of protective actions, and costs of or barriers to protective actions. It also refers to cues to action, such as physician advice or symptoms, and demographic, structural, and social/psychological factors that enable behavior. Somebody with AIDS is effected by the Health Belief Model in a negative way because they re knowledge of their situation causes them to have a pessimistic outlook on their future (Mays, 1989).
Another psychological condition that is a negative consequence of AIDS is self-efficacy . Self-efficacy of an AIDS patient refers to their perception of their inability to perform a behavior due to their lack of ability, effort, luck, or the difficulty of the situation. AIDS patients view themselves as creatures that do not have the capability to fulfill any task due to their failing physical condition. Their energy is drained and thus they feel lazy feel they don t have the ability to carry out a task (Valdiserri, 1989).
One more psychological condition that has a negative effect on an AIDS sufferer s mental health is helplessness. Helplessness refers to the patient s perception of having little control over their lives. This may be due to the fact that they suffer from an incurable, terminal disease, or it may be the result of a low self-esteem. Regardless of the cause, helplessness is a very big step in the wrong direction for AIDS s sufferers because they have come to the realization that they can t help that they re going to die an thus, they give up on any hope to keep fighting. Once a patient reaches this stage, they have lost the will to live, and any sort of gain from life is unobtainable (Valdiserri, 1989).
Considering the fact that not having sex can dramatically reduce the risk of contracting HIV or AIDS, many abstinence programs have been launched in schools to educate children across the nation. One such program is the Me, My World, Future Program (Mays et al., 1989). This particular program is taught at both the junior and senior high school levels and has been put into effect at over 2,500 schools across the nation. The junior high level program consists of a three to six week course divided into eighteen different class sessions. The lessons are taught by the regular teachers at each respective school, and include textbooks to assist in enhancing the educational experience. The junior high program targets important issues of early teens such as friendship and relationship building skills, peer refusal skills, decision-making, and goal-oriented rationale for pre-marital status. The program also aims to encourage the student to value themselves to making and following through on decisions, and to learn to see themselves as capable instead of avoiding negative consequences and achieving positive resolves in life. The high school level program also consists of a three to six week course but with fifteen class periods rather than eighteen. The high school level program is usually put into effect in the ninth grade and is also taught by teachers from each respective school. The course, like the junior high course, also includes a textbook as an addition to the in-class learning sessions. Unlike the junior high course, where more emphasis was put on teaching students decision-making skills, the high school level program focuses more on sexual activity and stresses the advantages of abstinence. This program places sex in context of commitment, marriage and family. It also stresses the importance of healthy sexuality in a person s life and portrays sexuality as a vital point of identity tied to our feelings of self worth and desire for love (A Decade of Denial: Teens and AIDS in America, 1992).
Another abstinence program that has been put into effect in schools across the nation is Aim for Success (Mays et al., 1989). This program is designed for grades five to seven, and is administered in one-hour presentations. Presentations are limited to fifty students for grades five and six, seventy-five students for grades seven and eight, and one hundred students for high school presentations. The focus of these presentations is to explain to students that abstinence is the only method that is one hundred percent effective in prevention pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and emotional trauma. It is also to raise awareness of how one s dreams and goals are affected by your choices, pregnancy has no easy solutions, the seriousness of sexually transmitted diseases, the effect emotional scars can have on one s life, the failure rate of contraceptives, and the preciousness of the gift of virginity. Parent presentations are also given concurrently with student presentations. These ninety minute programs explain to parents how to comfortably speak about sex with their children, answer questions a child may have about sex without being embarrassed, and how parents should encourage their children to stay sexually pure. Since the 1993-1994 school year, Aim for Success has been presented over 8,546 times to over 208,892 people. Anonymous surveys taken by students at the conclusion of student presentations revealed ninety-five percent of students rated the Aim for Success presentation excellent or good. Also, seventy-seven percent of the students have never had sex, and of those who have had sex, fifty-one percent say they are considering abstinence and twenty-six percent committed to abstinence. And overall, eight-nine percent of students surveyed sat he presentation gave them something new to consider ( Aim for Success: Programs , 1998).
Statistics have shown that, in the past decade or so, the number of AIDS cases among young adults has been on a steady climb. According to these statistics, up until now, previous interventions for containing and reducing the prevalence of AIDS have not worked. The idea of promoting abstinence and focusing on the prevalence of AIDS is a good one. But a new prevention program must come into effect so there can be a significant effect on the occurrence of AIDS among America s youth.
With those basic principles in mind, a new intervention program should be launched. This program will run from the fifth grade all the way up to the ninth grade. In the fifth grade, a time in a child s life where they become attracted to the opposite sex, a basic sex-education course should be implemented into the curriculum. The course will be taught as an elective and would only meet for an hour every week for twelve weeks. This course will give an overview of the sexual nature of human beings and shall lay a nice foundation for upcoming material to be learned upon. In the sixth grade, students will participate in three-week course that would meet twice a week for forty-five minutes per session, which raises awareness of the dangers of the consequences of unprotected sex with the most emphasis on sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Along with teaching about the dangers of unprotected sex, the course will also inform students of the use of protection (including condoms, spermicide, etc.) during sex. And in the seventh grade, students will participate in another six-week course meeting just twice a week for an hour per session. The focus of the first two weeks of this course will be to encourage individual thinking and the power to resist peer pressure. The next two weeks will emphasize the many advantages of abstinence including the elimination of unwanted pregnancies and contracting sexually transmitted diseases. And the last two weeks will emphasize the preciousness of one s virginity. Students will be informed that your first sexual experience should be a beautiful experience shared with someone you share a mutual love for. They shall also be warned of the lasting impression emotional scars leave on a person and that they had better not do something they would regret.
Parents of students will also concurrently enroll in after-school courses that will meet twice during the six or eight week course of the child, once halfway into the course and once at the end of the course. These courses will keep the parents informed on the extent of the child s knowledge of the subject of sex. It will also serve as a training session for communication with their child. The parents will learn methods to speak openly and comfortably so they can bridge the communication gap with their child so they can know exactly what their child is thinking. The parent sessions will also benefit the child because he or she will feel more comfortable speaking about the subject of sex with their parents, thus creating a healthier atmosphere in the household.
Having a prevention program based on the encouragement of abstinence is the best type of primary prevention to implement in the situation of the reduction of the spreading of AIDS. If you accomplish the objective of the prevention program by getting children to commit to abstinence, the chance of contracting AIDS drastically reduces because the children will not be having sex with numerous partners and sexual transmission is impossible.
A Decade of Denial: Teens and AIDS in America. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Offices, 1992.
Aim for Success: Programs. Apr. 1998.
Fuentes, Annete. Are the Kids Alright? Sept. 1998.
Mays, Vickie E.; Albee, George W. & Schneider, Stanley F. (1989). Primary Prevention of AIDS. Primary Prevention of Psychopathology, 13, 99-112.
Valdiserri, Ronald O. The Design of Effective Programs. London: Rutgers University Press, 1989.