UNESCO marks World AIDS day on 1 December, 2015 by highlighting education as key to filling the knowledge gap that leaves adolescents and young people at risk of HIV and AIDS.
A seminar and workshop being held at UNESCO headquarters, Paris will take stock of progress made in combatting the spread of HIV and present a vision for the new 2030 Education agenda.
There has been much success in the global AIDS response. Since 2000, new HIV infections have fallen by 35 per cent. In that same period the number of people on treatment has increased 20 fold to 15 million. And, 68 countries report non-discrimination laws for key populations. These and other efforts have averted 7.8 million AIDS-related deaths since 2000. Research shows that if the global community accelerates the response over the next five years, it may be possible to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
But there is still an estimated 36.9 million people living with HIV in the world and young people and adolescents are a key target group as they are often left behind in the AIDS response. Many of them may not know their HIV status or how to prevent infection, are not receiving treatment, and are living in contexts of social and systematic stigma and discrimination where access to youth friendly services is limited.
UNESCO, as a UNAIDS cosponsoring agency, is uniquely positioned to continue its leadership in ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. This is recognised in the new 2016-2021 UNAIDS Strategy, which highlights the potential of the education sector to effect meaningful change in preventing and treating HIV among adolescents and young people, and for addressing HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said: “Investing in the education of young women and men is absolutely essential to HIV prevention and treatment, and to continuing efforts to end all HIV-related stigma and discrimination. This is why, over the last two decades, UNESCO has worked to overcome discrimination and ensure gender-sensitive and age- appropriate education on sexuality and reproductive health, delivered in safe and healthy learning environments that are free from all forms of gender-based violence.”
“We must recognize that progress has been uneven, leaving behind especially adolescents and young people. Only 26 per cent of girls and 33 per cent of boys between the ages of 15 and 19 have a full understanding of how HIV is transmitted and can be prevented. In Africa, AIDS-related illnesses continue to be the leading cause of death among adolescents, and among women of reproductive age.”