BACKGROUND: HIV/AIDS is one of the leading causes of illness and death in the United States with individuals between the ages of 13 and 19 years being especially vulnerable for infection. The purpose of this study was to examine the attitudes, perceptions, and instructional practices of high school health teachers toward teaching HIV prevention.
METHODS: A total of 800 surveys were sent to a national random sample of high school health teachers and 50% responded.
RESULTS: There was almost complete agreement (99%) among respondents that HIV prevention instruction is needed. The factors that emerged as significantly influencing the attitudes and perceptions of high school health teachers about teaching HIV prevention were related to teacher preparation, training, and years of experience teaching health education. A state mandate requiring HIV prevention instruction was significantly associated with higher teacher efficacy expectations and more perceived benefits, but did not have a significant influence in relation to practices in the classroom. Characteristics of high school health teachers that were significantly related to attitudes, perceptions, and instructional practices included the instructor's age, sex, and race/ethnicity.
CONCLUSIONS: High school health teachers who reported the least experience teaching health education had the least supportive attitudes, perceived the most barriers, and had the lowest efficacy and outcome expectations related to teaching about HIV prevention. Whereas these findings support the importance of teacher preparation and training, they also suggest that more recent college graduates may not be fully prepared to provide effective instruction in HIV prevention.