Youth in Zimbabwe engage with National AIDS Council to implement sexuality education programmes.

Hundreds of young people in Zimbabwe took part in large scale discussions with officials from the National AIDS Council to build up momentum towards the implementation of sexuality education programmes in schools. The open discussions held in Victoria Falls on 1 December 2014 to mark World AIDS Day 2014, were facilitated by UNESCO and took place under the message: “Young People Today; Time to Act Now” and “Getting to Zero: Starting with Education”. Young people and officials also discussed the provision of youth friendly SRH services.

World AIDS Day commemorations in Zimbabwe – where 1,4 million  people are living with HIV-  are held under the leadership and facilitation of the National AIDS Council in a multi-sectoral framework which brings together government, United Nations agencies, civil society, AIDS Service Organizations, business and religious sectors.

For this year’s commemorations, the Government of Zimbabwe was requested by the African Union to host the regional World AIDS Day under the regional theme: “Getting to Zero in Africa - Africa’s Responsibility, Everyone’s Responsibility”.

Awareness of HIV and AIDS is almost universal in Zimbabwe. According to the recent population-based survey report , 99% of women and men aged 15-49 had heard of HIV and AIDS. However, awareness of the problem does not necessarily translate to knowledge. The same report noted that the percentage of young people, aged 15-24, who were knowledgeable about HIV prevention was 56.4% for women and 51.7% for men.   Education is key in promoting greater awareness and better knowledge and the occasion of the World AIDS Day 2014 provided a platform to raise awareness on the importance of delivering sexuality education in schools.

“The fact that adolescents and young people spend most of their time at school means that schools remain strategic entry points to reach large numbers of young people who are especially receptive to learning new information. Therefore, all partners (UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, NAC, and line ministries) should continue working together to ensure that schools remain well established points of contact through which young people can receive comprehensive sexuality education,” Beauty Nyamwanza, National Youth Coordinator, National AIDS Council, Zimbabwe, said.

 “That way, as a country, we will continue to consolidate the gains in providing young people with opportunities for comprehensive knowledge about HIV prevention so they may develop the skills and attitudes needed for a full and healthy life as well as to reduce sexual and reproductive health risks,”  Beauty Nyamwanza, added.

UNESCO supports Zimbabwe’s national response to HIV and AIDS with advocacy, policy and programmatic guidance, and technical and strategic support, convening and coordination. This work is carried out in accordance with the bold strategic goals outlined in Getting to Zero, the UNAIDS roadmap to 2015. UNESCO supports responses to HIV and AIDS that are gender and age responsive, culturally appropriate, evidence – informed, grounded in human rights, inclusive and sensitive to the needs of all people and, in particular, young people in school settings.