High school students in Who's Who say they do little to guard against AIDS

February 18, 1992|By Melanie Brodus | Melanie Brodus,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- The United States' best and brightest high school students have become more aware of the dangers of AIDS but are doing little to protect themselves against the deadly disease, a recent survey indicates.

Nearly all the 1,150 high school seniors who responded to the survey said they know how AIDS is contracted. However, few of the students said they used condoms or changed their behavior to guard against getting the disease.

Among the 28 percent of surveyed students who indicated they were sexually active, 42 percent said they would continue to have sexual intercourse even if a condom were not available.

"These findings confirm our worst fears -- high school students see themselves as invincible," said Paul Krouse, publisher of Who's Who Among American High School Students, which conducted the student survey and released the results yesterday.

"If our best and brightest kids aren't using the information they have to their advantage, what does this say for the average student?"

The survey was distributed to 3,000 demographically selected 1990-1991 seniors listed in Who's Who just three weeks after basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson revealed in November he had contracted the HIV virus.

The results showed little change in the sexual practices of the teen-agers despite their increased AIDS awareness and concern following Johnson's announcement.

The proportion of teen-agers who were "worried" or "very worried" about getting the HIV virus nearly doubled -- from 12 to 22 percent -- after Mr. Johnson's announcement, the survey indicated.

But the number of students who said they "never" use condoms actually increased -- from 8 percent to 12 percent -- after Mr. Johnson's announcement.

"These findings demonstrate just how powerful denial is, and it's that denial we need to work on," said Larry Kessler, a member of the National Commission on AIDS. "It's going to take more than Magic Johnson and a fear of AIDS to motivate behavior changes in teens." E

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