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Education offers ‘window of hope’ for AIDS-affected children

NEW YORK, 18 June 2007 – Sub-Saharan Africa, which continues to be ravaged by HIV and AIDS, has been making education a priority in the response to the epidemic. Five partner agencies today reiterated their commitment to support the region’s countries in their educational efforts.

In a joint report to be released later this year – Accelerating the Education Sector Response to HIV and AIDS: Five Years On – the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Partnership for Child Development, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Bank state that education offers a window of hope to children in the countries most affected by the disease.

“Education is essential to preventing HIV infection among young people, especially girls,” the report says. “It helps them live free from HIV and AIDS by imparting knowledge, skills and values to help them protect themselves as they grow up. At the same time, preventing HIV infection is essential for ensuring the supply, demand and quality of education.”

Entitled Accelerating the Education Sector Response to HIV and AIDS: Five Years On, the report highlights achievements of the agencies during the past five years as they support the countries of sub-Saharan Africa in accelerating the education sector response to the AIDS epidemic. A summary of the report is being released in Dakar today. It provides key practitioners and decision-makers with a set of messages and proposes a way forward to promote a coordinated and collaborative response by participating agencies.

Education plays a key role in reducing stigma and promoting prevention. It helps provide access to care, treatment and support for teachers and staff, a group representing 60 per cent of the public sector workforce in some countries.

Adolescents and young people, however, are not getting enough information about HIV and AIDS, according to the report. Simply supplying facts about sex and HIV is not enough to reduce vulnerability or alter risky behaviour. Knowledge must be supplemented with life skills to better decide among life’s opportunities and to act upon these decisions.

The report also says that education will not change the course of the epidemic unless it empowers young girls. Gender disparities are a significant factor placing women at increased risk of HIV infection and causing them to bear the greater burden of the disease. Education can reproduce social imbalances and inequities, or it can transform societies.

Background information

In 2002, the UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team on Education established a working group known as the ‘Accelerate Initiative’ to support countries in sub-Saharan Africa in their efforts to accelerate the education sector response to HIV and AIDS. Since then, education sectors of 37 countries, encompassing more than 200 million (85 per cent) of school-age children in sub-Saharan Africa and 2.6 million (74 per cent) of primary and secondary schoolteachers in the region have participated in this initiative.

Accelerating the Education Sector Response to HIV and AIDS: Five Years On reviews the work that has been done since 2002. Today’s release of the report summary marks the start of activities profiling the Accelerate Initiative, leading up to the November 2007 meeting of the UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team on Education in Nairobi, Kenya.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Gerrit Beger, UNICEF NY: Tel + 212-326-7116; Email, gbeger@unicef.org




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