Addressing HIV and Health Education Priorities and Deliverables for Southern Africa



Education plays a key role in ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being, as well as being fundamental to enabling individuals to fulfil their potential and participate in society. UNESCO has had a longstanding commitment to strengthening the links between education, health and well-being, consistent with international commitments set out in the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, the 1990 Jomtien World Declaration on Education For All, the 2000 Dakar World Education Forum Framework for Action and, more recently, the 2015 Incheon Declaration, Education 2030: Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all.


 Although HIV prevalence is stabilizing and declining in some countries[1], HIV is not over, and Eastern and Southern Africa remains the epicentre of the global HIV epidemic. Of the estimated 2 million people acquiring HIV globally in 2014, nearly half lived in Eastern and Southern Africa. Young people aged 15-24 years account for 16% of the global population, but represent 34% of those aged 15-49 years acquiring HIV each year. In much of the Southern Africa region, adolescent girls and young women are at disproportionate risk and acquire HIV five to seven years earlier than men. AIDS is also the leading cause of death in adolescents aged 10-19 years in sub-Saharan Africa and the second leading cause of death in adolescents globally. All the 9 countries under UNESCO ROSA (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe) remain priority countries for the HIV response as per UNAIDS classification[2], and all of them have adult HIV prevalence rates of over 10 per cent[3]. Knowledge is a prerequisite for healthy behaviours but many young people are still poorly informed about HIV; fewer than 40% have a basic understanding and fewer still have accurate knowledge about how to prevent infection.

These data underline the importance of intensifying and mainstreaming efforts in areas with high HIV burden. Based on its mandate and comparative advantage, UNESCO will give priority to supporting the education sector to ensure that all children and young people have the opportunity to develop the knowledge, attitudes and skills needed for healthy lives and relationships in the context of a supportive learning environment and, hence, will contribute to Member States’ achievement of the targets in the UNAIDS 2016-2021 strategy.


UNESCO’s new strategy, Education for Health and Well-being, provides the overarching framework for concerted action by UNESCO and its partners at global, regional and country levels during 2016-2021. While the strategy reflects UNESCO’s continued commitment to HIV, it also reflects the shift towards situating HIV within the framework of comprehensive sexuality education. Furthermore, UNESCO recognises that the education sector cannot achieve better health and well-being alone and thus will also support education sector collaboration with other sectors and with the health sector in particular. UNESCO will engage political leaders and the Regional Economic Communities, especially Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to sustain the response and provide a platform for collaboration and accountability.


The overarching goal of the new strategy for Education for Health and Well-being is to improve health, well-being and education outcomes or all children and young people through:

  • Ensuring that all children and young people benefit from good quality comprehensive sexuality education
  • Ensuring that all children and young people develop the knowledge attitudes and skills needed to lead healthy lives
  • Ensuring that all children and young people have access to safe, inclusive and supportive school environments



The strategy contributes to achieving the objectives of UNESCO’s Education Strategy 2014-2021 especially the objective of ‘promoting health through education’, which commits UNESCO to ‘strengthen support for Member States to deliver health education that contributes to healthy lifestyles and gender equality through safe and equitable learning environments that promote overall well-being, good quality education and learning outcomes for all’ and the education sector result in UNESCO’s Medium Term Strategy[4]. It will also contribute to Member States’ achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular the education and health goals


[1] UNAIDS Strategy 2016-2021

[2] Priority countries - Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

[3] Getting to Zero: HIV in Eastern and Southern Africa. UNAIDS, 2013. 




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