Flying the flag for HIV and AIDS education
“We must move as quickly as the AIDS virus does,” said Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General in a statement on World AIDS Day, 1 December 2011. “If we fail to respond effectively to HIV and AIDS, we will… fail to meet our collective commitment to promoting human rights, gender equality and social justice.”
Considerable progress has been made in ending the AIDS pandemic. The number of new HIV infections has fallen by more than 20 per cent since 1997, and continues to decline. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region most affected by the pandemic, HIV incidence has decreased in 22 countries. 6.6 million people are now receiving treatment in low and middle-income countries.
Within the international HIV response, the importance of education needs to become a full-fledged priority. Although progress is being made thanks to synergies between prevention and treatment, education policies must be implemented to tackle the pandemic. Making sure that all girls, boys, women and men in and out of formal education have access to comprehensive HIV education is UNESCO’s mission.
Three priorities guide UNESCO’s action: building country capacity for effective and sustainable education responses to HIV, strengthening comprehensive HIV and sexuality education, and advancing gender equality and protecting human rights. The Organization also emphasizes HIV prevention in the context of wider health promotion.
Earlier this year (27 April 2012), the UN Commission on Population and Development adopted a landmark resolution in this respect, urging governments to provide comprehensive education to young people on human sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, human rights and gender equality
UNESCO ’s delegation to 19th International AIDS Conference, to be held from 22-27 July 2012 in Washington, D.C, will be working to highlight the critical role of education as part of the response to HIV. The Conference represents a critical opportunity to advocate for education through UNESCO-led and education sector activities.
UNESCO will conduct presentations, workshops, and complementary sessions to highlight the critical role of education in the HIV response. These include youth-friendly services, mobilizing young key populations, and evidenced-based planning for sexuality education. UNESCO-led workshops are highly participatory and interactive, combining medical, educational and rights-based paradigms to assess the central issues. UNESCO will also showcase its innovative planning tool, the Sexuality Education Review and Analysis Tool (SERAT), developed to analyse sexuality education programmes in depth.