Importance of Education in addressing HIV and AIDS stressed at major conference in Limerick
The important role of teachers in preventing HIV/AIDS was discussed by a range of international speakers at a major conference in Mary Immaculate College in Limerick today, hosted by Irish Aid, the Government’s programme for overseas development which operates within the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The symposium drew speakers from Ghana, Kenya and The Gambia, along with representatives from the World Bank, UNESCO, international development agencies, teachers’ unions, universities, schools and research institutes.
Minister of State for Overseas Development, Peter Power TD launched the comprehensive report: A Strategic Approach: HIV & AIDS and Education, which sets out key priorities to make education a stronger tool in the global battle against HIV/AIDS.
The Report by the UNAIDS Inter Agency Task Team (IATT) on Education, which was co-financed by Irish Aid, highlights the importance of education in preventing transmission of the disease and reducing its impact on affected people. It provides a framework for action against HIV and AIDS in the education sector and recommends tailor-made responses to suit each local context.
UNAIDS, which organised the conference, contends that young people must be given access to information and resources to help them protect themselves against the disease. This can prove difficult in countries where there are cultural and other constraints to discussing sexual and relationship issues with young people. Education should comprehensively cover relationships, sexual interaction and drug use, the authors stress.
In sub-Saharan Africa, where the most severe epidemics are to be found, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization estimate that the proportion of 15 to 49-year-olds infected with the virus is still increasing in most countries.
In all countries of sub-Saharan Africa, HIV prevalence rates in young women aged 15-24 are higher -- typically two or three times higher -- than those for young men the same age. Education is key to combating the spread of the disease and today’s symposium will examine the role that teachers play in helping student to protect themselves against infection.
Speaking at the event today, Minister Power said: “The theme of today’s symposium focuses on the critical role of teachers in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Our work on education will suffer unless we take account of how HIV and AIDS impacts on teachers and affect their work in the classroom.”
He said that education is central to Irish Aid’s response to poverty and the fight against HIV and AIDS and cited Irish Aid’s work in Zambia, Uganda, South Africa and Lesotho as examples of how the Government is working towards reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and improving the quality of life of those affected.
Today’s one-day conference at Mary Immaculate College will be followed by a two-day internal meeting of the UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team at the Irish Aid office in Limerick.
June 15th 2009.
The full report: A Strategic Approach: HIV & AIDS and Education, can be downloaded free of charge from firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information on the IATT symposium, please contact Justine Sass, Coordinator of the UNAIDS IATT Symposium on Education: email@example.com or telephone 33 (0)1 45 68 16 95
For information on Irish Aid’s involvement, please contact the Department of Foreign Affairs press office on 01-4082550 or - 01-4082275.
Notes to the editor
• Formed in 2002, the IATT on Education is convened by UNESCO and brings together UNAIDS co-sponsors, bilateral agencies, private donors and civil society partners in an effort to accelerate and improve a coordinated response by the education sector to HIV/AIDS.
• The IATT on Education develops materials; commissions research, and carries out advocacy work to promote HIV prevention and support in the education sector. Irish Aid has been a member of the UNAIDS Interagency Task Team on Education since the organization was established in 2002, and we have supported the IATT through participation on the Steering Committee and funding for IATT work plans.
• The IATT is a key partnership through which Irish Aid has been able to promote attention to HIV and AIDS in education planning and implementation at national, regional and global levels.