Julias Kisakye stood bravely before the Ugandan school administration and requested early retirement. He explained he’d already seen five of his colleagues lose their fight to AIDS.
The HIV-positive primary school teacher worried he would be next if he didn’t start taking better care of himself.
But in a country where 7 percent of the adults are living with HIV and AIDS, the administration told Kisakye that if he left the school, he’d be removed from the payroll altogether.
Living with HIV, Kisakye had grown accustomed to fighting back. So, after taking a leave of absence, he worked with seven fellow teachers to form the Teachers Anti-AIDS Action Group (TAAG), an advocacy group for teachers living with HIV. That was in 2005.
TAAG, through the Uganda National Teachers’ Union, is now one participant in the EFAIDS project, which works to prevent new HIV infections, mitigate the effect of AIDS on the education sector, and promote education to all. In addition to providing technical assistance and monitoring and evaluation to the program, EDC also develops educational materials for and provides training to members of EFAIDS.
“Today, Julias is testimony that treatment, nutrition, and support work,” says EDC’s Scott Pulizzi. “He is healthy and back at work again.”
Working with Education International (EI), EDC helps teacher action groups, such as TAAG, in 35 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean through training, advocacy, policy development, research, and publicity. The work is funded by EI and done in partnership with the World Health Organization.
This joint venture speaks to the breadth of EDC’s long-standing work around the world in HIV and AIDS prevention and education.
Since 2002, another HIV and AIDS project by EDC called Living: Skills for Life, Botswana’s Window of Hope has provided all K–12 teachers in Botswana with professional development. Most recently, in fall 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control awarded EDC an additional five-year, $4 million grant to work with the Botswana Ministry of Education to train teachers on curriculum implementation and to ensure that the project is sustained.
“We are also working in this phase to extend the materials to the hard-to-reach populations, including out-of-school youth and learners with special needs,” says Pulizzi of the Botswana curriculum.
A comprehensive response
EDC’s HIV and AIDS efforts also reach the Caribbean, which has been more heavily affected by HIV than any region outside sub-Saharan Africa.
“Caribbean countries are increasingly implementing comprehensive responses to the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the education sector,” says EDC’s Arlene Husbands.
Husbands and a team at EDC produced a draft framework and toolkit for UNESCO, identifying ways to strengthen the Caribbean’s education sector capacity for monitoring and evaluating HIV and AIDS responses.
EDC’s research uncovered a lack of knowledge about HIV transmission, prevention, and sexuality among young people, which led to the recommendation that countries adopt education approaches that allow young people to have a say in what they learn, enabling them to play an active role in HIV and AIDS education.
Unveiled last spring, the Greater Involvement of People Living With or Affected by HIV and AIDS (GIPA) toolkit uses case studies, role-playing, and other activities to show Caribbean educators and others how to meaningfully engage people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS, and to break down barriers of stigma and discrimination while promoting prevention.
Next, Husbands plans to create a regional program for HIV and AIDS education in the Caribbean featuring what is known as the Roving Caribbean GIPA Institute. The institute will house a team of trainers from the Caribbean countries who worked on the monitoring and evaluation framework and GIPA toolkit.
And with the help of EDC, the response to the HIV epidemic continues for Kisakye and his teacher colleagues.
“HIV-positive teachers and students can live a normal life when they feel that they can open up and have nothing to hide,” adds Caroline Nabi, who like Kisakye serves on TAAG. “The biggest challenge is that many do not see a reason to open up. We try to emphasize the personal gain of opening up and living in a freer environment.”
Originally published on January 24, 2011