News Release: School of Public Health

Feb. 19,  2009

CDC Recognizes HIV/AIDS Intervention as Model Program

An HIV/AIDS intervention program aimed at helping fathers to talk to their sons about sex shows promise in getting adolescent boys to abstain.

The intervention dubbed "Responsible, Empowered, Aware, Living" (R.E.A.L. Men), was developed by Emory University public health researcher Colleen DiIorio, PhD, RN, FAAN, and based on a similar intervention she used among mothers and their adolescents.

R.E.A.L. Men was recently recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a model HIV/AIDS prevention intervention program.

"When we started R.E.A.L. Men in the late 1990s, there were no HIV/AIDS intervention programs specifically for fathers and their adolescent sons," says DiIorio, a professor of behavioral science and health education at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health. "We know that boys talk primarily to their dads about sexual issues and less so to their moms, so we developed an intervention just for fathers and sons so they could learn to talk with one another about sex."

R.E.A.L. Men is a group-level, skill-building intervention for fathers, or father figures, of adolescent boys ages 11 to 14 to encourage communication between fathers and sons about sexuality and to promote delay of sexual intercourse in youth and condom use among sexually active youth.

The seven two-hour intervention sessions emphasize the importance of the father's role in helping teens make responsible choices about sex. The first six group sessions are for fathers only and provide information on how to communicate with their adolescent sons, general sexual topics important to teens, and information about transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

During these sessions, fathers also watch videotapes of fathers talking to sons about sexual topics and practice communication skills through role play. Correct use of condoms is demonstrated by facilitators and practiced by fathers. The intervention concludes with a joint session in which fathers and sons discuss issues related to peer pressure and parental monitoring.

DiIorio and team found that four months after the R.E.A.L. Men intervention, the proportion of adolescent boys who were sexually abstinent was significantly greater in the R.E.A.L. Men group when compared to the adolescents in the comparison group who received only a nutrition and exercise intervention.

In addition, among the sexually active youth, the number of boys who reported having sex without a condom was lower in the R.E.A.L. Men intervention group than the nutrition and exercise group.

"Sometimes parents feel that talking to their children about sex won't do any good, but this isn't the case. In the R.E.A.L. Men program we talked to the dads about the benefits of having regular dialogue with their sons. By changing the dads' attitudes, we boosted their confidence and they in turn were better able to communicate with their sons about sex and other difficult topics," says DiIorio.

Study participants were recruited from Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. The majority of the fathers and father figures were African American (97 percent) and included biological fathers (40 percent), friend/other (19 percent), stepfather (15 percent), brother (8 percent), uncle (9 percent), grandfather (6 percent), and boyfriend of the mother (3 percent).

Results of the R.E.A.L. Men intervention were published in the June 2007 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The study was supported by a National Institutes of Health grant.

Link to study online:

Colleen DiIorio, PhD, et al. REAL Men: A group-randomized trial of an HIV prevention intervention for adolescent boys. American Journal of Public Health June 2007, Vol 97, No. 6.


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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