'I learned to be okay with talking about sex and safety': assessing the efficacy of a theatre-based HIV prevention approach for adolescents in North Carolina

Sex Educ. 2015;15(4):348-363. doi: 10.1080/14681811.2015.1025947.


Adolescents are at increased risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the Southern states of the USA, where rates among youth are higher than in the rest of the nation. This paper reports on findings from a pilot study of an HIV prevention intervention that uses interactive theatre to educate young people about sexual health. The intervention was developed in Los Angeles and adapted for testing in the South of the USA, with its legacy of abstinence-based approaches to sexual health education. This study assessed intervention effects among a sample of young people in two public high schools in North Carolina. We used a pre-test, post-test quasi-experimental evaluation design to assess changes in 317 ninth grade participants' knowledge and attitudes about HIV. At post-test, we found statistically significant increases in participants' HIV knowledge (t= 60.14; p=.001), as well as changes in attitudes (X2 =8.23; p=.042) and awareness (X2 =4.94; p=.026). Focus group data corroborated increase in HIV knowledge and reduction in HIV stigma as successful outcomes of intervention participation. The findings make an important contribution to the literature on theatre-based interventions for sexual health education. Furthermore, they highlight the importance of considering socio-cultural and political context in implementing HIV prevention interventions in schools.

Keywords: HIV prevention; USA; adolescents; sex education; theatre-based intervention.