New publication champions a strategic approach to HIV and education
15 June 2009
Education can play a critical role in the global challenge to HIV simply by “doing more of what it is doing already and doing it better,” and ensuring that all children have access to good quality learning. This is a key conclusion emerging from a new publication by the UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) on Education which explores what is already known and what needs to be learned about expanding the education sector’s response to the epidemic.
A Strategic Approach: HIV & AIDS and Education is being launched this week at the IATT Symposium taking place in Limerick, Ireland, by Peter Power T.D., Minister of State for Overseas Development. It examines how education can help mitigate the effects of HIV and how this key sector should be an integral part of any national AIDS programme. The report, an extensive update on a previous 2003 publication, highlights the fact that education in itself provides protection against the virus and that more and better schooling should therefore be the first line of the response. A second and complementary measure is the introduction of specific actions tailored to the epidemic, such as the provision of HIV and sexuality education.
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, states in the publication’s foreword that “Education is empowering. It facilitates the acquisition and use of knowledge, competencies, attitudes and behaviours that are essential for healthy lifestyles….it enhances public accountability, promotes inter-generational dialogue and leads to better use of available services, especially health and social protection.” He adds: “education can address the social, cultural and economic conditions that contribute to increased vulnerability...”
Aimed at decision-makers and practitioners in the field of education and their partners working on the AIDS response in other sectors, A Strategic Approach: HIV & AIDS and Education identifies key priorities.
Education is empowering. It facilitates the acquisition and use of knowledge, competencies, attitudes and behaviours that are essential for healthy lifestyles….it enhances public accountability, promotes inter-generational dialogue and leads to better use of available services, especially health and social protection.
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director
There is an emphasis on ‘knowing your epidemic’ so that each response is tailor-made to fit the local epidemiological reality. It also argues for two central objectives: first, the prevention of HIV (including the reduction of both social vulnerability and individual risk-taking) and, second, the mitigation of the impact of AIDS.
The report also contends that young people should be given access to the full range of information and resources so that they can protect themselves effectively. This requires that curriculum and learning materials be available in clear and understandable language and that HIV and sexuality education be delivered in an age-appropriate and culturally sensitive manner. Education should “comprehensively cover” such issues as relationships, sexual networks (including same-sex relations) and drug use. However, the publication also points to a recent study among young people in Africa by the Guttmacher Institute which shows that although most teenagers think sex education should be taught in schools, less than half of them receive it.
A Strategic Approach: HIV & AIDS and Education is primarily focused on school-based learning but it recognises that many of the young people most at risk have often never been to school or have dropped out. This demonstrates the importance not only of reaching out-of-school young people but of enlarging the provision of education, making sure more girls attend school and that greater numbers of children make the transition from primary to secondary institutions.
Empowering young people to protect themselves from HIV is one of the eight priority focus areas for UNAIDS and its Cosponsors under the Joint action for results: UNAIDS outcome framework 2009-2011. Through A Strategic Approach: HIV & AIDS and Education, the UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team hopes that this central aim can be brought a step closer to being realised.
Formed in 2002, the IATT on Education is convened by UNESCO and brings together UNAIDS Cosponsors, bilateral agencies, private donors and civil society partners with the purpose of accelerating and improving a coordinated and harmonised education sector response to HIV.
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