A Critical Review of the Characteristics of Theater-Based HIV Prevention Interventions for Adolescents in School Settings

Health Promot Pract. 2016 Jul;17(4):537-47. doi: 10.1177/1524839916632567. Epub 2016 Apr 19.


Theater-based interventions are a viable prevention strategy for changing sexual health knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to HIV prevention. However, few studies have explored interventions in English-speaking, high-income countries such as the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom. This article critically reviews the literature to identify key characteristics of theater-based HIV prevention strategies used for adolescents in school-settings in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Specifically, we identify the theatrical approach used in HIV prevention interventions, the behavioral theories that inform such interventions, and the study design and results of existing evaluation studies conducted in school settings. In the 10 articles reviewed, we found limited grounding in theory and the use of nonrigorous study design. To strengthen the evidence and practical application of theater-based HIV prevention interventions, we highlight three specific recommendations for practitioners and researchers: (1) define and operationalize the theater approach and techniques used, (2) ensure theater-based interventions are grounded in theory, and (3) conduct rigorous evaluation of theater-based interventions. These recommendations are key to strengthening future research on and implementation of theater-based interventions for HIV prevention.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; behavior change theory; child/adolescent health; curriculum; health education; learning theory; sexual health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Adolescent
  • Drama*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Research Design
  • United States