Enhancing ethical decision making in sexuality and AIDS education

Adolescence. Winter 1997;32(128):989-98.


Traditionally, sexuality education has consisted of teaching adolescents about human anatomy, reproduction, and sexually transmitted diseases. Most sexuality and AIDS education curricula have emphasized neither the relational aspects nor the ethical meaning of sexual behavior. However, current guidelines for comprehensive sexuality education from the National Guidelines Task Force acknowledge the ethical dimensions of sexuality. This paper advocates providing sexuality and AIDS education in a way that helps adolescents explore the ethical meaning of their sexual behavior. Principles from Rest's model of moral development are presented as one example of an ethical framework that could inform sexuality and AIDS education curricula. Rest describes four internal processes that produce moral behavior: moral sensitivity, moral judgment, moral motivation, and moral character. For each of these processes, illustrative questions and activities are suggested here which can be used by sexuality and AIDS educators to facilitate discussions with adolescents about the ethical meaning and implications of their sexual behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Adolescent
  • Decision Making*
  • Ethics*
  • Health Education*
  • Humans
  • Sex Education*
  • Sexual Behavior*