Programs that Work
Get Real About AIDS
Healthy and Safe Children
Youths abstaining from sexual activity or not engaging in risky sexual behavior
Age of Child
Middle Childhood (9-12)
Type of Setting
Community-Based Service Provider
Type of Service
Type of Outcome Addressed
Substance Use and Dependence
Teen Sex / Pregnancy
Evidence Level (What does this mean?)
The Get Real About AIDS program was first developed in 1988 to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, and AIDS among high-school-aged young people. It was updated in 1992 and further revised in 1994 when the curriculum was designated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a "Program That Works." The 14-session program includes training in basic sexuality, abstinence, and contraception education as well as training in behavioral skills. The program encourages teens to delay having sex, or, for those who do become sexually active, to reduce the risk of HIV by adopting such behaviors as being monogamous, avoiding drugs and alcohol, practicing safer sex, and not sharing needles.
The program is based on the cognitive and reasoned action theories of human behavior. These theories view actions as based on thinking style and intention. Thus, the program aims to change the sexual behavior of teens by providing information and by helping to develop and change the participants' understandings and beliefs.
The curriculum is used predominantly in school-based settings, but also has been implemented by community organizations. In addition to a third edition of the program for high school students, two other curricula have been developed for younger children in grades 4 through 9.
In a study done in Colorado in the fall of 1991, ten schools were selected to receive the Get Real About AIDS curriculum. Students in these schools were compared to students at seven demographically matched schools that either continued to offer their current HIV-related curricula or where no HIV-related curricula were used. The treatment and comparison groups were very similar, with the only significant difference being that the average age of the treatment students was slightly higher (14.99 years for the treatment group versus 14.73 years for the comparison group).
More than 2,800 students participated, filling out surveys before the program, after the first semester, and six months after completing the program. The researchers were not allowed to use names or code numbers on the surveys, so they matched surveys across 16 school and demographic variables to make comparisons over time. Approximately half of the students completed the survey at the six-month follow-up. Students were asked about their number of sexual partners, their use of contraceptives, how often they had sex, if at all, and their use of drugs and alcohol before sex. The matched follow-up sample for the treatment and comparison groups had only two differences in their backgrounds that were significant. As mentioned before, the treatment group was older. In addition, the comparison group was significantly more likely to have had more than three lifetime sex partners. None of the other differences between the groups were significant.
Key Evaluation Findings
The Colorado evaluation (Main et al., 1994) found that:
- Compared with the group that didn’t receive the training, program participants who were sexually active indicated that six months after completing the program they had fewer sexual partners, purchased and used condoms more frequently, intended to engage in sex less frequently with fewer partners, and planned to use condoms more often when they did engage in sex. All of these differences were significant.
- Students in the program group also had significantly greater knowledge of HIV, increased commitment to engage in safer sexual practices, and were more likely to believe that someone their age who engaged in risky behaviors could become infected with HIV than did students who did not participate in the program.
- The program did not delay the start of sexual activity or reduce the frequency of sex or drug and alcohol use prior to sex.
Schools and community organizations.
Federal and local health department HIV/AIDS funds, generally from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA); local school districts and community organizations.
The program uses a variety of approaches to reach teens, including group discussions, lectures, role-playing, games, books, work sheets, simulations, and videos. Many groups offering the program also supplement the program with activities designed to reinforce program content (for example, by using HIV posters or distributing wallet-sized HIV information cards). In addition, the program package includes activities for schools, families, and communities. The program also has a parent component that includes activities the children and parents can do together and a parent newsletter.
This program has a 14-lesson curriculum that uses entertaining activities, discussions, role-playing, simulations, and videos to give teens the knowledge and skills needed to reduce their risk of HIV infection. It is generally offered over the course of a semester. During the first half of the program, students study HIV transmission and prevention, teen vulnerability to HIV, and what factors cause risky behavior. In the second half of the program, students learn and practice social skills to help them recognize, manage, avoid, and leave risky situations that they are likely to encounter.
Classroom teachers conduct the program in a school setting, preferably in health or science classes. In other settings, youth or community organization staff direct the program. At some sites, peer leaders now assist with program implementation.
Teachers who participated in the program by teaching the Get Real About AIDS curriculum were trained in a 5-day, 40-hour training session. They were also observed periodically during the study to ensure that their teaching was faithful to the design of the curriculum.
Issues to Consider
This program received a “promising” rating. There is only one evaluation, and while the sample size is very large, the data have a number of limitations. The attrition across the waves of the survey is very high, and those students who did not complete follow-up surveys were more likely to engage in risky behavior. In addition, matching of students’ responses over time is imperfect because they were not allowed to include any individual identifiers. Although the results of the evaluation do tend to favor the program, it is difficult to assess the size of the impact. There is some evidence of effects from the program, but the effects were measured only until the end of the school year. Also, evidence suggests that there were changes in knowledge and intentions among program participants but fewer changes in actual behaviors, such as the onset of sexual intercourse.
Colorado; San Diego
For a preview of or to purchase program materials, contact:
For staff training, contact:
Comprehensive Health Education Foundation (CHEF)
22419 Pacific Highway South
Seattle, WA 98198
Get Real About AIDS program materials are available from AGC Educational Media for three age groups: high school students and young people in grades 4–6 and in grades 6–9. The program package includes a teacher’s guide, lesson plans, curriculum materials, and a parent newsletter. In addition, special training for instructors and "train the trainer" sessions are available from CHEF.
A Get Real About AIDS program package developed by Sociometrics includes a user's guide, implementation guidelines, staff training and evaluation materials, a directory of evaluation consultants, and telephone technical support for a year (contact Sociometrics at 1-800-846-DISK).