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Students and AIDS-Prevention Curricula

We were very pleased to see the article on the Learning page "Schools Grapple With AIDS Issues," Oct. 5, since this is a crucial issue. The map accompanying the article shows Massachusetts as mandating HIV/AIDS education. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

HIV/AIDS education is only recommended in this state. The article describes two opposing sides of the HIV/AIDS education controversy: Advocates on one side support abstinence-based curricula, while the other side supports a safer-sex model. In fact these two educational strategies are not at odds.

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Sexuality-education programs that are most effective stress that postponement of sexual intercourse is the best way to prevent HIV/AIDS, but programs also provide information on how to practice effective contraception if students decide to have intercourse. The most effective sexuality-education programs also include training in decisionmaking, communication skills, and strategies in saying "no" and getting out of risky situations.

One student quoted in the article is a junior at the Boston Latin School, where the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts provided our "Heart-to-Heart" five-session sexuality-education and prevention program last year. "Heart-to-Heart" stresses postponement as the best way to prevent HIV/AIDS and places it in the context of sexuality education, including information on contraceptives and practical decisionmaking skills. A presentation by an educator with HIV helped students understand that the disea se could happen to them. While high school students must have this vital information, given the rates of sexual activity among teenagers, we must offer HIV/AIDS education to younger students who have not already begun sexual intercourse. Christine Hollis, Boston Planned Parenthood League of Mass.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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