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HIV Prevention Programs Reach Youth

Sex Education and Multimedia Campaigns Can Prevent Spread of AIDS
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Youth-Friendly Health Facilities

The experts called for more clinics where young people can get information and counseling about HIV as well as treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

It's hard for a teen to know where to go for health care, even in the U.S., Auerbach says. "We have few adolescent-focused health programs in general and even fewer specifically focused on sexual health," she says.

To be effective, health care facilities have to appeal to youth, which means more than painting bright murals on the walls -- though that may help, Auerbach says.

Training is key, she says. Health care providers, both in the U.S. and developing nations, are often judgmental when teens ask about condoms and prevention of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.

"We have to teach more providers how to talk to kids," she says.

Ross says that it's also important that both female and male providers are available. "If a girl comes in to a clinic and all the staffers are men, for example, she may be reluctant to even ask about contraceptioncontraception," he says.

Multimedia Campaigns

TV and radio are ideal for reaching young people. Simple messages such as "you're at risk" or "use a condom" can really help to change behavior, Ross says.

But a sound bite or an ad campaign alone won't do it, he says. "You want to hit them on multiple fronts, even subliminally, getting the same messages on TV, the radio, and even into soap operas and other shows teens are tuned into."

Also at the meeting, researchers reported that free, convenient, rapid HIV testing is being enthusiastically received by college students.

Charles Hicks, MD, professor of medicine at Duke University in Durham, N.C., says the innovative student-run initiative, which requires only a swab around the outer gums and offers results in 20 minutes, increased voluntary HIV testing on campus almost sixfold.

Sarah Rutstein, the undergrad who brainstormed the idea, "made it real easy for students, setting up on the quad and offering free snacks, drinks, and T-shirts," he says.

Rutstein, who already has plans to bring the program to more North Carolina schools, hopes to go national over the next few years. "If you make it easy and free, and don't make them take a blood test, maybe we can reach more youth," Hicks says.

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