DescriptionThis dissertation evaluates the effects and implementation of an education program aimed at increasing knowledge and changing attitudes about HIV and AIDS among high school students. Using a quasi-experimental pretest posttest design and process and outcome evaluation, the research was conducted in four Newark, New Jersey public high schools. Students in the intervention group attended an art exhibit related to
AIDS consisting of the AIDS Museum’s collection, participated in a discussion with an artist living with HIV, and created their own art projects about HIV. Students in the comparison group participated in the standard of care, consisting of the usual HIV education provided through health classes. Quantitative questionnaires from 325 students and qualitative individual interviews with 15 students were conducted in order to evaluate the impact of the program on students’ knowledge and attitudes about AIDS. The quantitative findings
indicated that increases in student knowledge were associated with participating in the AIDS Museum program, but changes in attitudes were not significantly related to the intervention. The interviews revealed that after the program, students felt more empathetic toward people with HIV and learned they could overcome challenges in their lives. The second phase of the study examined factors that facilitated and impeded the
implementation of this intervention and other HIV education programs in the Newark Public Schools through participant observation, individual interviews with seven school and district-level administrators, and two focus group interviews with health teachers.
Findings indicated that, at the city-level, economic, political, policy, and social issues influenced implementation, especially in the climate of an economic recession. At the school-level, organizational factors as well as the individual behaviors of employees
affected program implementation and quality. School leaders, particularly health education department chairs, were influential in determining whether their school participated in the study. Teachers’ cooperation was important for program implementation. The program was particularly challenging to implement in schools with less structured environments in which students experienced more social and behavioral
problems. A combined top-down and bottom-up approach to implementation and a
rational/technocratic and political/cultural framework help explain facilitators and barriers to implementation of HIV education programs in this context.