Why is HIV and AIDS education important?
Effective HIV and AIDS education can help prevent new infections by providing people with information about HIV and how it is passed on, and in doing so equip individuals with the knowledge to protect themselves from becoming infected with the virus.
HIV and AIDS education also plays a vital role in reducing stigma and discrimination. There continues to be a great deal of fear and stigmatisation of people living with HIV, which is fueled by misunderstanding and misinformation. This not only has a negative impact on people living with HIV, but can also fuel the spread of HIV by discouraging people from seeking testing and treatment.
Who needs HIV and AIDS education?
HIV education can be effective when targeted at specific groups who are particularly at risk of HIV infection. The groups that HIV education needs to target vary depending on the nature of the epidemic in an area. High risk groups can also change over time. For example, in the early years of the AIDS epidemic, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users were most at risk of HIV infection. Today, heterosexual African community are the second population group most affected by HIV in New Zealand.
It is also important that people who are living with HIV receive HIV and AIDS education. This can help people to live positively without passing on the virus to anyone else; to prevent themselves becoming infected with a different strain of the virus; and to ensure a good quality of life by informing them about medication and the support that is available to them.
It is not just teachers who can provide education; people’s knowledge about HIV and AIDS can be influenced by a variety of different people, including family, friends, and the wider community.
HIV and AIDS education: The issues
Unfortunately when it comes to HIV and AIDS education, ideological and religious views often conflict with science. With the high and rising rate of teenage pregnancy and despite evidence that young people are having sex, the ideological message of sexual abstinence until marriage plays a key role in sex education. Abstinence-only programmes often do not teach people about contraception and safer sex and therefore many young people remain unaware of how to protect themselves from becoming infected with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.
Conflicts with science are evident in many parts of the world alongside the thinking that educating about safe sex is against moral and religious views, and therefore people remain unaware of the dangers of HIV infection through sexual intercourse.
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