AIDS Peer Education Program

Originally created in 1987 by a high school nurse and biology teacher in the Montérégie region of Quebec, the AIDS Peer Education Program was designed to reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and AIDS among teenagers through the postponement of sexual involvement or by condom use. The program’s initial success led to the development of a training program for peer educators in 1991 and after additional improvements and subsequent positive evaluations, the program was revised a final time and renamed the Protection Express Program (PEP). Prior to introducing the revamped program to eleven schools, program managers conducted an extensive literature review of other, successful AIDS education programs. This research led to PEP being based on the Theory of Planned Behavior, in which behavior adoption is determined by (1) personal attitudes toward the behavior, (2) perception of behavior control, and (3) perceived social norms. Sixteen student volunteers aged 15-16 were selected to act as educators for their peers- students aged 13-14. These peer educators were enrolled in a 40-hour after-school training program led by a school nurse and Moral and Religious Education teacher. In addition to learning about a range of topics including STDs, AIDS, sexuality, decision-making, communication, and lesson planning, peer educators also had the opportunity to meet with someone living with AIDS and visited a condom shop. In return for completing the program, peer educators received two course credits, were given a shirt to wear at school identifying them as leaders and were invited to attend an end of program party where they received a plaque recognizing their accomplishment. Once training was complete, peer educators were grouped into small teams and asked to create two presentations based on personal experiences to communicate key program messages on condom use and postponement of sexual involvement to their peers. In addition to these presentations, peer educators led educational sessions on abstinence in a moral and religious education class and condom use in a biology class, created poster contests, handed out AIDS ribbons, and displayed traced outlines of students’ hands on school grounds to show solidarity with people living with AIDS. Additionally, to reach a wider audience, peer educators performed their presentations during open-house events at school and two videos were produced that were played for administrators and teachers at other schools so they could see the program in action. Self-administered questionnaires pre and post intervention were used as the primary method of evaluation. 70 students who participated in the program completed these evaluations, as well as 74 students from another school that acted as a control for the study. Questionnaire results showed that students who completed the program had a more positive attitude towards abstinence and condom use and were more likely to intend to use condoms than those students who were not exposed to the program. 
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