Feature story

Helping Vietnamese youth protect themselves against HIV

16 June 2010

Children“This is a unique experience with the UN I’ve never seen elsewhere,” said Lisa Sherburne, an HIV specialist with Save the Children. Credit: UN

Pham Xuan Tung talks eagerly and takes notes for his group during a biology lesson on HIV transmission and the replication of the virus in blood cells. This new type of highly interactive class is something Tung, a student at Hoang Quoc Viet upper secondary school in Dong Trieu District, Quang Ninh Province, clearly enjoys.

The class is based on a new, integrated reproductive health and HIV prevention curriculum for secondary school students being developed and piloted by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), with support from UNICEF, UNFPA, UNESCO and Save the Children in Viet Nam. Many students in Quang Ninh Province, Quang Tri Province and Ho Chi Minh City are following the new pilot curriculum.

A comprehensive national HIV prevention curriculum

Writing
Many students in Quang Ninh Province, Quang Tri Province and Ho Chi Minh City are following the new pilot curriculum. Credit: UN

“I have seen a positive change in the participation of students in my class. The new teaching and learning method allows room for every student to speak up, and they are much more responsive,” said Tung’s teacher Truong Thi Hoa.

The new curriculum for secondary schools nationwide draws on UN-supported work in schools, including healthy living and life skills programmes, reproductive health and HIV prevention initiatives, and pre-service training for teachers. Integrating the areas into core lessons and extra-curricular activities, it includes special training for parents so they can better discuss HIV and reproductive health issues with their children – subjects that can be particularly sensitive and difficult to address.

I have seen a positive change in the participation of students in my class. The new teaching and learning method allows room for every student to speak up, and they are much more responsive.

Truong Thi Hoa, teacher

“This is a unique experience with the UN I’ve never seen elsewhere,” said Lisa Sherburne, an HIV specialist with Save the Children. “It allows more resources, more cohesive actions and a more powerful voice for the Viet Nam education sector.”

The changes are all aimed at integrating HIV prevention into the next national curriculum framework and new textbooks to be developed by the ministry and approved by the National Assembly in 2015.

However, many challenges remain. The ministry needs strong political leadership and greater capacity for planning and coordination, sufficient resources, teachers with better capacity, and effective intra-ministry and multisectoral coordination.

“Our biggest challenge is how to facilitate the close collaboration among departments in the ministry and among ministries related to the education sector response to HIV,” says La Quy Don, vice director of MOET’s Department of Student Affairs.

For Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Viet Nam Country Director, this is also a top priority.  “We are committed to providing joint support for policy-making, enhanced coordination and implementation of several key aspects of the education sector’s response to HIV.”

Empowering young people to protect themselves against HIV is a key priority area in UNAIDS Outcome Framework 2009-11.