Background Latin-American young people are the fastest growing group living with, or at high risk of acquiring HIV. Young people are vulnerable due to sexual behaviour; use of illicit drugs; lack of access to education and health services; cultural and social-economical factors; structural violence; marginalisation and poverty. Acceptable success for sexual education programs are decrease in adolescent pregnancy, STD and HIV infection rates. This study tried to identify those characteristics of programs that achieved one or more of mentioned success criteria and could be adapted and implemented in Latin America, taking into account its particular historical and contextual conditions.
Methods A systematic literature review of evaluations of HIV educational programs for young people published in international databases within the last 4 years was performed. Specialised educational evaluation books, primary and secondary documents and unpublished literature were also consulted.
Results The review identified 182 documents related to the evaluation of HIV educational programs. Successful programs had at least one of the following characteristics: exceeded the ABC (Abstinence, Be faithful, Condom use) methodology; were supported by national authorities; used participative instruction methods; presented comprehensive information, including general HIV education, risk reduction practices, methods of contraception and condom use, respect for sexual/gender diversity; and guaranteed that young people joined and remained into the educational programs.
Conclusions Successful HIV/AIDS educational programs should promote the acquisition of protective though processes and behaviours by focusing on the historical, contextual, psycho-social, and sexual factors that affect behaviour and health. An education committed to HIV/AIDS prevention should be accessible to young people through the schools and must support life conditions that allow them to take advantage of the different learning opportunities. Literature review suggests that youngs may acquire the knowledge, abilities, competences, values, and attitudes that make possible to overcome the conditions of vulnerability to HIV they face.
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