Education International
Education International

World AIDS Day: Teachers take lead on HIV prevention and support

published 1 December 2010 updated 1 December 2010

Teachers pledge to continue engaging in strategies that improve prevention and treatment of HIV as the year for achieving Universal Access to HIV prevention, treatment and care draws to a close.

The success stories: increasing numbers of people using anti-retroviral medication (ARV), falling and stabilising infection rates in many countries, show that progress on access is happening. However, access is a long way from universal so, even when the deadline passes, teachers will remain committed to making universal access a reality.

Through the EFAIDS Programme, Education International has worked year-round with our members to coordinate their response to HIV and AIDS in schools, workplaces and communities. Many people use World AIDS Day as an opportunity to look deeper at HIV and AIDS in their countries and the difference that their work can make.

This year, many schools around the world continue the tradition of dedicating a lesson or assembly to ‘One Hour on AIDS’. This is a simple but effective lesson-plan empowering teachers to talk about HIV and AIDS and has been used successfully with students and adults alike within schools and communities from Argentina to Zimbabwe. In 2010, the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union (SLTU) has planned to introduce ‘One Hour on AIDS’ to schools across mining communities.

The global theme of ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’ for World AIDS Day 2010 reflects the importance of a rights-based approach to HIV prevention and treatment.

Teacher unions across the globe recognise and embrace the critical impact of teachers in ensuring that a new generation of young people respect and promote the rights of those affected by HIV while being informed to make the right choices to protect themselves. Unions emphasise how stigma and discrimination hinder access.

The Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) is undertaking advocacy against cultural and socio-economic barriers to access. By sending HIV and AIDS messages through mobile phone providers they are confident of getting the message across.

In Botswana, groups of students will present dramatic performances, while in Rwanda, students will participate in games, to focus on ways to overcome stigma and discrimination.

In Burundi, concern about the lack of confidentiality as a barrier to testing has led the union to host an awareness-raising workshop on voluntary and confidential testing for teachers, school administrators and personnel from the Ministry of Education and Public Health.

Teachers’ unions in Ghana and Benin will emphasise behaviour that promotes prevention. Sketches by Benin students will drive home the message while, in Ghana, the union is focusing activities on the Central Region which is experiencing high levels of infection prevalence which signals inadequate safe sex behaviour.

The Ba Oumar School in Libreville, Gabon, will host an exhibition and information day, with plans to establish an AIDS Club, while the Malawi Teachers’ Union (TUM) is hosting a radio show under their slogan of ‘Act Aware’ to debate the teaching fraternity’s response to HIV and AIDS.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) will look to increase support to children orphaned by the AIDS crisis and are conducting home support visits to increase community solidarity and awareness-raising about the difficult situations of these children.

Elsewhere, Brazil’s Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Educação (CNTE) union has run 29 sexual health workshops and reached 3,000 teachers as part of its preparations for World AIDS Day. Costa Rica’s Asociación Nacional de Educadores (ANDE) and the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Educación Costarricenses (SEC) are in Alajuela region for an HIV and AIDS festival where the public will be both informed and entertained. Meanwhile, the Confederación de Trabajadores de la Educación de la República Argentina has scaled-up its community outreach, opening the doors of its testing and counselling centre to all who seek free testing.

For more information about EI’s EFAIDS project please visit http://www.ei-ie.org/hivaids/en/.