As in other countries of the world, the first line of defence is information. The government, side by side with UNICEF, has been promoting awareness of the situations in which the virus spreads and on good practices for effective prevention. A State Drug Control Programme adopted in 1998, aims to increase public awareness about drug abuse and to improve treatment and rehabilitation services for drug addicts. Significantly, the National Programme on HIV/AIDS and STI Prevention in
UNICEF is responding to the issue of HIV/AIDS/STI using a multi-level strategy of cooperation with the Government of Turkmenistan. The approach focuses on access to information, life skills based health education (LSBHE) in and out of schools, youth-friendly services (YFS), and targeted interventions for at-risk youth.
To help raise awareness, UNICEF supports the development and distribution of a wide variety of materials, including pamphlets and video clips, all age-appropriate and culturally sensitive. The widest expected reach will be through the introduction of life skills education into schools and youth clubs throughout the country. By including these concepts in regular education, children will be best equipped to make positive, healthy choices. In 2004, LSBHE had already reached more than 20,000 7th-9th graders.
The concept of YFS will have the potential to have the widest impact by introducing it into medical and academic training institutions. A review of curricula related to adolescent health is already under way at in a number of medical colleges. This activity parallels a series of ongoing trainings for counsellors in the health care system on standards of YFS. UNICEF is also lending technical support to the improvement of a referral network better equipped to effectively respond to children in need of assistance.
The fourth area of intervention is taking place in and out of drug treatment centres as well as youth clubs, where educating at-risk children in healthy behaviours has the potential to make a significant impact. UNICEF has created and distributed a series of instructional tools to facilitate the teaching of life skills to at-risk youth. Manuals on LSBHE for master trainers, school teachers and those working with drug users have been developed, published and distributed among specialists and NGO activists trained through UNICEF-supported workshops.