|© UNICEF video|
|Derdery, 13, is just one of the students who took part in a UNICEF-sponsored drama workshop in Sudan, helping children learn about the dangers of HIV/AIDS.|
By Thomas Nybo
KADUGLI, Sudan, 21 October, 2005 – With more than 2 million children living with the HIV virus today, UNICEF and its partners are working hard to give the children of Sudan facts about AIDS.
Today in the town of Kadugli, children from several schools are gathered to perform plays they’ve written themselves to show off their newly acquired knowledge.
One of the most popular plays is by Derdery Mohammed Bashir, 13. He acts out the role of AIDS – strutting before the gathered students, shouting about how he is among the strongest infections in the world.
Derdery quickly overwhelms actors portraying a young couple who have not properly protected themselves against infection. As he gently but firmly pushes them to the ground, signifying their death, the crowd is wide-eyed and impressed.
After the performances, the students are all given fact sheets about HIV/AIDS. They are also encouraged to show what they have learned by drawing pictures illustrating the facts on HIV prevention.
|© UNICEF video|
|Teachers in Kadugli, Sudan, learn about AIDS prevention. On returning to their communities they will share the information with their students.|
Teaching the teachers
One of the big challenges in AIDS education is debunking myths – for example, the belief that HIV is transmitted by shaking hands or touching, sharing toilets and bathrooms, or through mosquito bites or kissing. Another misconception, shared by some of the children here, is that the only people susceptible to HIV/AIDS are homosexuals or sex workers.
Derdery says, "I am going to tell all my friends and the children in the neighbourhood about the dangers of HIV. I am going to tell them how to avoid getting it."
On the other side of Kadugli, a group of teachers from remote villages have gathered in a classroom – also to learn about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. Their mission is to return to their communities and share the information with their students. The teachers’ programme is sponsored by the Norwegian Refugee Council, with support from UNICEF.
Children are key to prevention
Else Ostergaard of the Norwegian Refugee Council explains how this programme will help prevent HIV/AIDS, not only among the children, but also among other members of the communities in which they live: "The children are the ones who will tell their parents. That's the way life is – once you tell the children, they will be very aware and they will be very concerned that we [adults] take care of our selves, our life."
Unlike many other countries in Africa, Sudan has a relatively low HIV prevalence rate of only 2.3 percent among people aged 15-49. To keep the numbers low, it is imperative to give young people the facts about the virus, as the programmes in Kadugli are doing. Many children worldwide lack the information and skills which are essential for preventing AIDS. Millions cannot name a single way to protect themselves from HIV infection.
It is also crucial for pregnant women to be tested and to be given medical support: In the event of a positive test, a woman can take measures to prevent the spread of the virus to her child. Currently, over 90 per cent of infected pregnant women worldwide are not being offered the drugs that could prevent their babies from being born HIV-positive.
21 October 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on how some children in Sudan are being taught about the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
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