More than 100 pupils in yellow uniforms sit in a primary school class. The teacher is talking about HIV today. She asks if anyone can tell her what “HIV” stands for. Several hands are raised, and one girl answers confidently that it’s Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
The teacher continues to lecture about the disease for 15 minutes. She asks if there are any questions. The room is silent.
A need for change
The above scenario shows that teaching facts about HIV has become tiresome and not enough to guide today’s youth.
“We need to check how we are reaching the youth if we want the message to sink in,” said Musa Bugundu, Country Director of UNAIDS. “Even though treatment is part of prevention, we need more focus on the educational aspect… Young people need more guidance.”
Nearly 10 million students attend primary and secondary schools, government and private. 56 per cent of Uganda’s population is below the age of 19, meaning the majority of the people are within school going age.
This is both a challenge and opportunity for guiding young people in making healthy life choices.
“Sex and HIV education is one of the essential things students need, because many young people who don’t have sexuality education don’t even finish their schooling,” said Lewis Bukenya Denis, training manager at Naguru Teenage Information and Health Centre.
12 years later...
School interventions have been rolled out, mainly the Presidential Initiative for Aids Strategy Communication to the Youth (PIASCY) in 2002, but today, schools face challenges that weren’t there when the programme was developed.
For starters, more than 400,000 students, teachers, and school staff were reported as HIV positive in 2012, making up nearly a quarter of all HIV positive people in Uganda.
Another challenge is overcrowded schools—the total study body increased by approximately 19.7 per cent since 2002. Young people are more sexually active today, giving reason as to why 25 per cent of annual births are to women under the age of 18.
Not to mention only 39 per cent of young people aged 15 to 24 know all the necessary facts about how to prevent HIV, suggesting a lack of sex education, according to the 2011 Aids Indicator Survey.
“The fact that young people are unaware is a major factor of the prevalence rates,” professor Vinand Nantulya of Uganda Aids Commission. “Education is most needed.”
Improving lessons on HIV
Presidential Initiative for Aids Strategy Communication to the Youth (PIASCY), started as a tool for schools to assist children in staying safe and helping prevent HIV/Aids.
It was started in 2002, and added to secondary schools in 2005.
“PIASCY is a holistic approach where everyone—students, teachers, communities—work together,” said Dr Yusuf Nsubuga, director for basic and secondary education and HIV/Aids sector coordinator.