XVIII International AIDS Conference


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An ecological approach to the implementation of a sexual education program in Brazil

Presented by Melissa Vargo (Brazil).

M. Vargo

Casa do Caminho, Xerem, Brazil

Background: Brazil has the highest cumulative HIV and sexually transmitted disease rates within South America, with seventy percent of the cases between the ages of 15-24(UNAIDS 2008). Although sexual education programs have been developed in Brazil, few confronted the multi-faceted socio-cultural factors perpetuating the cycle of high risk sexual behaviors.
Methods: The present study is a qualitative evaluation based on an ecological approach to sexual education in Brazil. Additionally, focus groups and in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted evaluating adolescent sexuality and HIV/AIDS, working towards understanding the protective and risk factors at individual, family, peer, school, community and socio-cultural levels contributing to adoption of healthy or risky sexual behaviors.
Results: The qualitative data which emerged suggested many adults verbalized discomfort related to sexuality. Additionally, a deeply engrained fear related to sexual education augmenting sexual behaviors kept youth from obtaining crucial knowledge which could assist in making decisions about sexual health. Further, the variable gender roles adversely affected adolescent's behaviors related to sexual decision making. Specifically, many messages emerged related to male sexual permissiveness, and female sexual prohibition. The permissiveness extended to other behaviors, creating a gender hierarchy in which the male was given unquestioned authority.
Conclusions: These results show an imminent need to address gender constructions. When societies enter into a level of inflexibility within gender, additional stereotypes emerge related to being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. Men who choose to waiver from “traditional,” gender roles are punished and/or thrown out of peer groups. The present analysis demonstrated several references to “intolerance,” for sexual expression differing from the normal “machisto,” conceptualization of masculinity. If sexual education programs can examine the construction of gender roles, and men are given the opportunity to have relationships with men modeling emotional nurturing, then rigidity within gender roles will begin to break down, confronting the patriarchal views that presently exist.

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