UNESCO stresses education in Africa's HIV/AIDS game plan

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- At the on-going African summit on HIV/AIDS in Abuja, Nigeria, UNESCO has recommended preventive education as a vital component in the continent's struggle against the scourge.
Presenting Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura's message to the forum Thursday, Assistant Director-General for Africa Nouréini Tidjani-Serpos said that UNESCO could best contribute to curbing AIDS "by taking a lead role in preventive education within the global framework of the UN system.
" Warning that the worst was still to come, UNESCO stressed that preventive education must go beyond formal education and develop "non-formal approaches to reach the unreached and the most vulnerable, and to promote adequate risk management in relation to HIV/AIDS and drug abuse.
" The Director-General insisted that "preventive education is the best vaccination," adding "if done massively, it can turn the tide.
" Enunciating a four-point strategy as perceived by UNESCO, he said the agency would cooperate closely with UNAIDS and other international partners to "combat complacency, challenge stigmatisation, overcome the tyranny of silence, and promote more caring attitudes.
" He called for the integration of HIV/AIDS preventive education into the global development agenda and national policies and declared that "coping with the institutional impacts of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on schools, students, teachers and other key institutions at the country level will be another priority for UNESCO.
" The Director-General also stressed that preventive education must be adapted to the diversity of needs and contexts to be effective.
To that end he said that UNESCO will "work on enhancing the quality and effectiveness of preventive education and on developing access to scientific information on HIV/AIDS provided by basic research.
" He promised that "close attention will be given to disseminating accurate information about methods of transmission, safe practices" and the use of counselling services, formal and non-formal education and networks, to reach students, institutions and communities.
In developing preventive education methods and materials, he said UNESCO will "seek to combat discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS" and "encourage innovative community responses which empower the most vulnerable and promote respect for human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS", including access to treatment and vaccine trials.
Matsuura recalled the recent regional ECOWAS conference on HIV/AIDS organised by UNESCO in collaboration with UNAIDS in Elmina (Ghana), which emphasised that the continent's response must be founded on a systematic mobilisation of the education sector.
Warning that the very survival of some societies was at risk, Matsuura called for mobilisation from the highest level of government and for the involvement of all - policy makers, parents, community representatives, and persons living with HIV/AIDS.
"Not acting now would be a moral failure of unprecedented proportions," he said.
The Abuja summit, held in preparation of the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS coming up 24-27 June in New York is bringing together the majority of Africa's heads of state and government as well as the relevant UN organizations, development banks, non- governmental organizations and the private sector.
Some 36.
1 million people are living with HIV or AIDS world- wide, with 5.
3 million newly infected during 2000 alone and 21.
8 million deaths since the start of the epidemic.
Sub-Saharan Africa is said to have the largest number of people with AIDS - some 25.
3 million in 2000 - and in several affected countries life expectancy was reported dropping sharply to 35 years.

26 april 2001 14:13:00

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