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Boost for HIV/AIDS education in India

© UNICEF India/2004/Bergerson
Manisha, 19, attends an HIV/AIDS awareness program supported by UNICEF in the village of Borgaom, Maharashtra province.

By Savita Naqvi

NEW DELHI, 24 June 2005 – India’s Ministry of Human Resource  Development and the country’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) are collaborating with UNICEF to scale up programmes for educating adolescents about HIV/AIDS.

The plans call for training teachers and peer educators in conducting courses and leading study groups on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

It is hoped that the programmes will reach at least 33 million students in secondary schools over the next two to three years.

Students are mostly very receptive and say they find the information valuable. Ramesh, a student from the Kurnool school in Andhra Pradesh, said, “We must learn to be careful and know how to conduct ourselves. We are the future.”

© UNICEF India/2004/Bergerson
Fourteen-year-olds Dipankar, Karthik, Amrutha and Akshatha are peer educators working with the HIV/AIDS awareness programme in Bangalore.

Innovative programmes

Dr. S. Y. Quraishi, Director General of NACO, praised the programme. “Some ten million young people who leave senior school every year will from now on have the skills to combat and overcome HIV/AIDS,” he said.

Reaching out-of-school children is another, more difficult challenge. Young people who have dropped out of school or who were never enrolled may face additional vulnerabilities. Educators must find means of instruction that do not depend on a classroom environment.

UNICEF has been working on innovative programmes with the government of India to reach children who are out of school. Analyses of ongoing programmes has helped to develop new strategies for HIV/AIDS peer education. These will be implemented through existing services, such as youth clubs which already offer voluntary testing for HIV and forums for discussing sexual health and other HIV/AIDS-related issues.

UNICEF Representative in India Cecilio Adorna praised the government’s initiative in putting HIV/AIDS education into mainstream curricula.

“All young people going to school will now be armed to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and will be able to spread the knowledge to those who are not in school,” he said.



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