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IrsiCaixa and “la Caixa” Foundation launch a scientific dissemination and prevention program on AIDS for young people, which contributes to a reduced risk of infection

01/12/2011
IrsiCaixa and “la Caixa” Foundation launch a scientific dissemination and prevention program on AIDS for young people, which contributes to a reduced risk of infection

  • The IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute is presenting, together with “la Caixa” Foundation, a scientific dissemination and prevention program on AIDS aimed at secondary school students, which is intended to provide information about basic HIV/AIDS concepts as well as research in this field, in order to promote disease prevention and also to foster new scientific vocations. 
  • Pilot experiences conducted in different educational centres have proven that the risk of HIV infection to which students could be exposed to decreases significantly after working with the IrsiCaixa Outreach tools in the classroom. 
  • A study performed at the Sant Miquel dels Sants school in Vic (Barcelona) revealed that, prior to working with the IrsiCaixa Outreach materials, 51% of students did not know where to get an AIDS test or where to obtain information, 36% did not know that a person can get infected by HIV with just one incomplete, unprotected sexual encounter, and 18% did not know that one cannot know whether a person is HIV-positive or not based on their appearance or on how they are feeling physically.  After using these IrsiCaixa Outreach materials in the classroom, these percentages significantly decreased. 
  • Over 200 secondary school students have participated in CosmoCaixa in a massive debate concerning HIV transmission and current research in HIV/AIDS, conducted by Dr. Bonaventura Clotet and ICREA researcher at IrsiCaixa Javier Martínez-Picado, and in which an HIV-infected patient has explained how AIDS has changed his life.  

The IrsiCaixa Aids Research Institute and “la Caixa” Foundation have presented a dissemination and prevention program on AIDS aimed at secondary school students. The program is intended to disseminate basic HIV/AIDS concepts and research in this field in order to promote the prevention of this disease.  It is also intended to inspire future researchers, at a time when several European reports indicate that decreased scientific vocations can put the future of European innovation at risk.

The program includes multimedia tools offered via the new IrsiCaixa Outreach website, participative dissemination and reflection workshops, experiment workshops and scientific updating sessions for teachers at CosmoCaixa Barcelona and CaixaForums in other cities of Catalonia.  Youth are encouraged to actively participate in the program, producing their own communication tools and/or disseminating the information using social networking, as well as in local communities within their environment. 

According to the director of  IrsiCaixa, Bonaventura Clotet, "promoting the dissemination and prevention of AIDS is a priority for IrsiCaixa and “la Caixa” Foundation, and in order to achieve this objective we need everybody’s participation, given that the number of people who currently become infected by AIDS is the same as 20 years ago”. 

Recent studies show the need to promote the dissemination of knowledge regarding sexually transmitted diseases, and especially HIV/AIDS, at secondary education centres.  Reasons include the fact that the age at which young people become sexually active is decreasing, which increases the probability of having different partners. In addition, there are studies that demonstrate that although most young people know that condoms are the most effective method to prevent HIV infection, their use is pretty low, with percentages ranging between 30 and 65% depending on the study.  Prior results also indicate that young people also use condoms to prevent pregnancy, and not sexually transmitted diseases, and therefore the use of this contraceptive is rare when other birth control methods are used. 

In this context, working in the classroom with the IrsiCaixa Outreach tools may reduce the risk of HIV infection to which the youth are exposed.  This has been proven by a pilot study performed by IrsiCaixa in the Sant Miquel dels Sants School of Vic (Barcelona) during the 2010-2011 school year, with 239 ESO and upper school students.  The students responded individually, before and after working with the IrsiCaixa materials in class, to a test that assessed the degree of risk of HIV/AIDS infection they might be exposed to.  The test can be found on the IrsiCaixa Dissemination website and consists of 13 questions that make it possible to analyse the student’s level of knowledge regarding aspects related with the disease’s prevention and transmission. 

The comparison of results obtained by the same students before and after working with the IrsiCaixa Outreach materials made it possible to observe significant differences in knowledge regarding the degree of risk of HIV infection once the students explore the subject in depth using the IrsiCaixa website.  Before examining these topics, the students correctly responded to 72% of questions, whereas after performing the activities the percentage of correct answers increased to 88%, and there was a total increase of 491 correct answers.  Hence, the study demonstrates the relevance of working HIV and AIDS-related contents in secondary education centres in order to decrease the degree of risk of exposure. 

With regard to results, the following should be highlighted: before working on the contents, 51% said they did not know where to get an HIV test or where to obtain information.  30% were not aware of the risk of kissing when there are bleeding wounds in the mouth area. Other surprising results included the fact that 36% of surveyed individuals did not know that a person can become infected by HIV with just one incomplete, unprotected sexual encounter, or that 18% did not know that it is not possible to know whether someone is HIV-positive or not based on their physical appearance or on whether they feel sick or have health problems or not. 

The IrsiCaixa Outreach program was presented on December 1, World AIDS Day, at CosmoCaixa Barcelona, at a conference conducted by IrsiCaixa director, Bonaventura Clotet, and ICREA researcher Javier Martínez-Picado, on HIV transmission and current HIV/IDS research.  Over 200 secondary school students attended this event. 

About the IrsiCaixa Dissemination website
The IrsiCaixa Outreach website has been coordinated by the Institute’s Communication Unit and all its researchers have actively collaborated.  It is available in Spanish, Catalan and English and is especially geared towards 3rd and 4th of ESO, upper school and Higher-Level Training Cycle students. It contains 18 interactive tools that include virtual experiments, didactic exercises, educational games and self-assessment questionnaires, grouped under five  topics: “Get closer to the science of HIV and AIDS”, “How does HIV infect us”, “How to prevent AIDS”, “How drugs work”, and “Vaccine research”, as well as a section with resources for educators, where teachers can find classroom activities, experiment protocols and documentation to administer the survey on the degree of risk that students could be exposed to.

The website aims to encourage the active participation of users to the greatest extent possible, offering them the chance of developing their own contents.  In addition to leaving comments in the multimedia tools and sharing them in social networks, students and teachers can also add content to a collaborative blog to share the results of educational activities and surveys conducted in the classroom, as well as the communication tools developed by the students themselves. 

The IrsiCaixa Outreach program is supported by the collaboration of the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) (link in Spanish) of the Ministry of Science and Innovation