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MESA, Arizona, June 30,Â2006 (LifeSiteNews.com)Â- A United Families International intervention program has been credited by scholarly evaluators with making a statistically significant impact on the sexual health of pre-adolescent children in Africa. Since 2001, the Stay Alive Program has been taught in nine African nations to more than 750,000 African children and their families.

An independent program outcome evaluation in Kenya was conducted over a 2½-year time period, examining 957 children, ages 9-14, in 51 different schools representing a diverse range of social economic status, gender, religions and geographic settings.

As reported by researchers at the International Conference on Global Health, in Washington, D.C., the results were overwhelmingly positive.

Researchers found that Stay Alive instruction leads to a high level of behavioral change among youth. Pregnancy rates dropped from 20.8 per 1,000 female students in the year prior to the Stay Alive Program being taught, to 8.2 per 1,000 female students the year after the Stay Alive Program was taught. This represents a 61-percent drop in pregnancy after the Stay Alive Program was taught in the schools.

On pre/post testing, up to one year after being taught the Stay Alive Program, the children demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in understanding how HIV/AIDS is transmitted. This statistically significant difference was not observed in children who had not been taught the Stay Alive Program.

During ethnographic interviews, it was found that prior to the Stay Alive Program being taught, the children commonly expressed a culturally fatalistic belief regarding their ability to affect their own future. When questioned about the concepts taught in the Stay Alive Program (e.g., what can you decide to do right now that will affect your future?) more than half (54.7 percent) of the children gave answers which reflected an external focus of control.

On pre/post testing up to one year after being taught the Stay Alive Program, children demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in describing the concepts of choice, consequences and the possible permanence of consequence. Additionally, children demonstrated statistically significant improvement in their concrete abilities to give examples of good choices and bad choices that they could make. This statistically significant difference was not observed in children who had not been taught the Stay Alive Program.

Young women reported a statistically significant change in perception regarding their ability to decide to resist sexual advances by males in order to protect their future families. Young men also reported a statistically significant change in perception regarding their need to decide to accept such resistance, to protect their future families. Interviews suggest that the Stay Alive Program keyed into the cultural belief that women have the right to “protect the family.”

Also statistically significant was the improvement in the level of communication that parents and care-givers are having with their children regarding sexual matters and HIV/AIDS.

Authored by Wendy Sheffield, MSW, LCSW, the Stay Alive lessons address the HIV/AIDS pandemic ravaging Africa by targeting children ages 9-14 and empowering them to make smart choices before they become sexually active. Children learn about HIV/AIDS, what it is, how it is transmitted and how they can protect themselves from contracting it by being abstinent before marriage and faithful in marriage. Guiding principles target consequential thinking skills, individual worth, abstinence, family, empowerment, hope.

For additional information, please see: www.stayalive.org.

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