HIV risks reduced when mothers teach daughters about disease

Low-income African American teen girls in Chicago continue to be at high risk for contracting HIV, but the risk decreases when their mothers teach them about the dangers of the disease, according to a new study at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"African American adolescents are more likely to delay early initiation of sexual activities if monitored by their mothers," said Barbara Dancy, professor of public health, mental health and administrative nursing in the UIC College of Nursing and primary researcher of the study. "Among all racial and ethnic groups of adolescent girls, African Americans from low-income backgrounds are the most vulnerable for HIV risk because of early sexual activity."

Of females between the ages of 13 and 19 who have AIDS, 68 percent are African American, and of those who are affected with HIV, 71 percent are African American, Dancy said. Those who are sexually active tend to have fewer sexual partners if their mothers have discussed sexual matters with them.

"We discovered that adolescents who rely on their parents, as opposed to their friends or others, for direction and guidance were significantly less likely to engage in high-risk HIV behavior."

Mothers learned about HIV over a 12-week period through the Mother/Daughter HIV Risk Reduction intervention, taught by UIC research teams. Topics consisted of sexual development; how the female and male reproductive systems function; sexually transmitted illnesses; HIV transmission, stages, risks and testing; and learning and practicing skills to reduce the risk of HIV.

While the curriculum primarily focused on sexual abstinence, it did provide information on how to correctly use male and female condoms. Once the training was completed, every mother was responsible for teaching a portion of the curriculum in which she felt most comfortable.

"Learning about HIV supports the protective value of sexual abstinence," Dancy said. "However, be

Contact: Sam Hostettler
University of Illinois at Chicago

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