The education sector has a key role to play within a national HIV and AIDS response because of its high degree of geographic coverage, access to a great numbers of young people, and large skilled workforce. Better educated learners have the skills to be healthy, and teachers who have the skills and support to live healthily will have the opportunity to teach better.
A new survey provides a comprehensive snapshot of how countries’ education sectors are responding to HIV and AIDS, assesses progress since the last survey in 2004, and points out the policy implications of the current situation. Called the 2011-2012 Education Sector HIV and AIDS Global Progress Survey Progression, Regression or Stagnation?, it was commissioned by the UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team on Education convened by UNESCO.
The data shows mixed results with progress in some fields and stagnation in others, but an overall positive general direction since 2004. Almost all countries have an education sector HIV policy; there is increasing space within the curriculum to teach about HIV and more teachers have been trained to teach about HIV; there are more education management information system units in place; and there are increased protective policies and services for learners and teachers. But many challenges still remain. While there is a policy in place in nearly all countries, implementation is low. Life-skills are part of the curriculum and teachers trained, but the extent to which HIV is addressed is still low. Although there are more education management information system units, the collection of HIV-related indicators is low.
The report, which is available at www.unesco.org/aids reviews the data collected and highlights some of the critical action points that need to be addressed to improve the effectiveness of the education sector’s response to HIV and AIDS.
The survey was designed to ask the question: ‘Progression, Regression or Stagnation?’ because education is the foundation for the success of all HIV programmes. Individuals need the requisite knowledge, attitudes and skills to adopt healthy behaviours and to act against discrimination. Every year a new cohort of young people needs to be equipped to make informed choices to access and use prevention and treatment methods and services all their lives. Education fosters literacy, numeracy, critical thinking and other skills. This supports the HIV response by building self-esteem, assertiveness and economic independence, thus reducing vulnerability, especially for girls.