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At a glance: Indonesia

Ninth International Conference on HIV emphasizes social issues

© UNICEF/Estey
Mainstreaming HIV and AIDS education in school lessons helps boys and girls understand the issue more fully.

By Irfan  Kortschak

BALI, Indonesia, 17 August 2009 – The Ninth International Congress on HIV and AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) was held in Bali last week. The theme of the Congress was: ‘Empowering People, Strengthening Networks’.

The Congress brought together more than 3,000 delegates from around the world to share knowledge and ideas related to HIV and AIDS. UNICEF stressed the need to integrate HIV prevention into the mainstream curriculum.

In his opening speech, the President of the Republic of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhyono described HIV as “one of the world’s most lethal and most successful killers,” adding that “HIV has raised the spectre of a ‘lost generation’ – a generation where the youth are doomed before reaching or completing their productive age.”

Children at risk

Mother-to-child transmission accounts for many cases of children living with HIV. Many are made vulnerable to the virus by being the children of IV drug users, sex workers or men who buy sex.

“We can prevent an epidemic by way of effective and proactive international collaboration,” said President Yudhyono.

The education sector is strategically positioned to influence the behaviour patterns of young people.

“The health sector alone can do little to influence the behaviours of the estimated one billion adolescents in the Asia Pacific Region, but schools are ideally placed to integrate HIV prevention within topics of healthy lifestyles, relationships, alcohol use, gender expectations, risk behaviours, sexuality and reproductive health,” said UNICEF East Asia Regional Director Anupama Rao Singh.

Lead-up to ICAAP

In the lead-up to ICAAP, a symposium called Enhancing HIV Prevention for Adolescents through Effective Health and Sexuality Education was held. Education delegates from more than ten countries met to discuss strategies that call on the education sector to share the responsibility for educating young people about HIV prevention, sexuality, reproductive health and psychosocial health issues.

© ICAAP/2009
The President of the Republic of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhyono at the opening of the Ninth International HIV/AIDS Congress in Bali.

The symposium was opened by the Governor of Papua Barnabas Suebu. Papua has become the first province of Indonesia to embark on a systematic process to mainstream HIV and reproductive health education into the education sector.

UNICEF has supported this programme in the implementation of life-skills based HIV-related education.

In addition, a variety of public awareness campaigns specifically designed to reach young people will be conducted through posters, pamphlets and other materials placed or distributed in school environments.

“HIV should not be seen as a stand-alone issue, nor as a medical issue. It is a social issue that is best considered as part of young people's real world of puberty, changing relationships, alcohol and risk-taking behaviours including sexuality and reproductive health,” said UNICEF Indonesia Representative Angela Kearney.



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