On World AIDS Day and all year round, teachers are working to prevent new cases of HIV and AIDS and to halt the spread of the global pandemic, which has already killed more than 20 million people, including tens of thousands of teachers, and has orphaned at least 14 million children.
This year’s theme is: "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise." On December 1, Education International and other advocates around the globe will be calling on the G8 leaders to live up to their promises of achieving universal access to anti-retroviral drugs by 2010. As the global union federation representing teachers and education workers in more than 160 countries, EI speaks for more than 30 million members.
"AIDS thrives on ignorance, so we see education as the single most effective social vaccine to prevent the spread of the pandemic," says Wouter van der Schaaf, EI’s coordinator of the EFAIDS programme, which combines teacher training on HIV and AIDS with advocacy for universal Education For All by 2015.
Since 2001, the programme has grown to embrace 35 unions in 24 countries: Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina-Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Peru, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
So far EI has facilitated member unions to train more than 150,000 teachers in almost 40,000 schools. Teachers are trained to tackle all issues related to HIV and AIDS, sex and condom use, and to develop greater ease in discussing such sensitive topics. They also learn advocacy skills to help implement programmes and policies in schools.
Prevention, testing, care, access to treatment, mutual support and solidarity: These are all aspects EI is emphasizing with its members. One of the key goals is to destigmatize HIV and AIDS, so that those who are affected and infected do not feel ashamed to reach out to their unions, their schools and their medical communities for help.
Education International, headquartered in Brussels, will be active at several of the World AIDS Day events here to spread the message that teachers care, and are committed to education for life!