Project: AIDS

Contact: Baruch Fischhoff

Adolescents’ overall level of HIV/AIDS knowledge may have little relationship to their behavior, if it hides critical gaps and misconceptions. We developed a knowledge test, designed to cover the broad domain of HIV/AIDS risks, focusing on gaps and misconceptions. The test aimed to cover both critical correct beliefs, as defined by an expert-identified overview of the broad domain, and lay misconceptions, as revealed in in-depth semi-structured interviews. A study, using diverse adolescents, found test scores to have both reliability and predictive validity, with condom use being more likely among teens with better performance. Despite extensive efforts to reduce literacy barriers, institutionalized adolescents displayed less knowledge and were more overconfident than high-school students. These adolescents knew many facts about HIV/AIDS, but still had critical gaps in their knowledge, such as how to use condoms safely, how risks accumulate through repeated exposure, and how they vary across sexual behaviors. The knowledge test is designed for use in creating and evaluating interventions intended to make adolescents better informed and more appropriately confident about their knowledge, as steps toward making choices reducing HIV risk.

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