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Study: Culturally adapted HIV classes benefit teen girls

From Saundra Young
Mayo Clinic
AIDS (Disease)
Medical Research
Emory University

(CNN) -- Learning about HIV in a positive environment with their peers could be life-saving for sexually active African-American teenage girls who are at a high risk for the virus that causes AIDS, according to a study published in the upcoming Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study was released as the weeklong 15th International AIDS Conference got underway Sunday in Bangkok, Thailand.

"Interventions for African-American adolescent girls that are gender-tailored and culturally congruent can enhance HIV-preventive behaviors, skills and mediators and may reduce pregnancy and chlamydia infection," the study by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, concluded.

For 2.5 years, beginning in December 1996, the researchers tested 522 African-American girls between the ages 14 to 18 who were sexually active.

According to the study, the teens were divided into two groups and attended a series of four classes that lasted four hours each.

One group of 251 girls learned about HIV, how to properly use a condom, how to negotiate the use of a condom with a sexual partner, what constitutes a healthy relationship and pride in their gender and ethnic background.

The remaining 271 girls spent the same amount of time learning about exercise and nutrition.

The researchers followed up with the teenagers after six months and a year. The girls in the HIV class reported that they were more likely to use a condom and less likely to have had a new sex partner in the past 30 days than the girls who learned about nutrition and exercise.

The study's lead author attributes the program's success to the fact that it was developed with the help of teenage girls in the community.

"They had ownership of this program" said Ralph J. DiClemente of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health and Center for AIDS Research.

"This intervention had a motto -- be safe for yourself, for your family and your community. We wanted to instill a sense of pride in young folks," he said.

A recent study reported that HIV infection among African-American adolescent girls was significantly higher than their Caucasian and Hispanic peers, and exceeds that of white, Hispanic and black teenage males.

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