Information and Prevention on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (HIV/AIDS/STDs) to High-School Students in Lazio, Italy

Project location: ITALY, Lazio
Project start date: June 2012 - Project end date: This project covers various years
Project number: 2012-045
Beneficiary: Associazione Nazionale per la Lotta contro L'AIDS - Sezione Laziale

 [2013-052 | 2015-051]

The project wants to address four main areas:

• Lack of awareness of HIV/AIDS/STDs infection risks among younger generations;
• Lack of awareness of the risks HIV/AIDS/STD infections have on people's health and well-being;
• The prejudice that surrounds people living with HIV;
• The widespread view that only certain categories of individuals are at risk of being infected with HIV/AIDS/STDs.

This project received various grants originally from the Nando Peretti Foundation, then also from the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation and is divided into two stages.

I phase: before the seminars, a "pre-test" questionnaire is distributed to the pupils that will be attending the course to get a sense of their level of knowledge and understanding about the disease and its transmission. After this initial test the actual seminars take place in groups of 30 pupils. Each seminar lasts 2 hours during school-hours and is led by an expert worker and by a volunteer. There are three types of seminars.
In the first type, which is aimed at groups of pupils that have not been involved in previous seminars, the expert worker provides information about the topics and distributes informative brochures; the second part is interactive and also involves the volunteer. The pupils are encouraged to take part in role play and discussions in order to encourage the acquisition of the information previously supplied.
The second type is an in-depth seminar. These meetings want to look at topics that are brought-up by the pupils: they cover social aspects related to the disease (issues of people living with HIV, discrimination, etc.) and provide greater information about other sexually transmitted diseases. The aim is to encourage young people to question their behaviours and increase awareness of risky behaviours.
The third type is for the teachers of institutions taking part in the project. The schools are given the option to allow their teachers to take part in a two hour training session before the seminars with the pupils take place.
After 20-30 days from the students are asked to fill out a "post-test" questionnaire to value the information and knowledge that was acquired by the pupils during the seminars.

II phase: at the end of the project the experts prepare a final report. A special report is also prepared for each school involved in the project with the results of their students. The data elaboration, the assessment of answers and the drawing-up of results are performed by a commission coordinated by Anlaids that includes an infectious disease medical specialist, a sociologist, a psychologist and a sexologist. The results are then presented in a special press conference coordinated with the partners.

The project runs annually from September to September: in September-October materials are prepared and the schedule of meetings with individual schools is arranged. In this period staff working on the project is trained. The actual seminars in the schools take place from November till June. Data insertion activities and data elaboration of the questionnaires starts in March and continues till July with final results available in September. In March meetings to supervise the staff that is holding the seminars in the classrooms are held. In May and June reports are prepared for each school that has taken part in project: these provide institutions with pre-test results and with a brief analysis of the pupils' trends. Finally during the course of the summer the overall trends and final results are elaborated and published in a brochure.

The main outcomes the project wants to achieve are:
• Assess levels of understanding in 14 to 19 year old school children regarding HIV/AIDS STDs;
• Provide these school children with clear and scientific information about HIV/AIDS, STDs infections, eliminating doubts and;
• Create a chance for students and experts to exchange views on the matter in a spontaneous environment;
• Raise awareness in younger generations about the importance of considering health as a primary and irreplaceable asset that one needs to protect;
• Promote a relationship between schools, Anlaids-Lazio and Scientific Institutions to promote a general culture of health and well-being.
The effectiveness of the project is assessed thanks to the questionnaires filled-out by the students that show an increase in the level of understanding and of the perception of risk following the seminar. In the 2010/2011 edition of the project a total of 12,000 school children were involved in the project in the city of Rome.

Associazione Nazionale per la Lotta contro L'AIDS - Sezione Laziale  is an association founded in 1988 with the aim of promoting and improving initiatives aimed at developing scientific research in the field of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS, as well as raising awareness regarding social issues related to the illness and to assist and safeguard people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
The School Project has been running for a number of years: the association is frequently contacted by school teachers keen to be involved. They have either heard about the project through word of mouth, or want the project to be held for a consecutive year in their classroom. The feedback received by pupils is also positive and has helped, over the course of the years, to improve the actual project's questionnaires and ways of relating with the pupils. Some students have taken it a step further and, after taking part in the course, have also gotten involved with other initiatives of Anlaids Lazio.
The initiative has also drawn attention of major institutions: the INMI L. Spallanzani Hospital in Rome, Italy's leading infective disease research centre, backs the project and provides experts for the classroom seminars. The Istituto Superiore Sanità, a major research institute run by Italy's Ministry of Health, is also involved with the training of personnel working on the project.

This project received grants in the years 2014 and 2015.

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