By Scott Pulizzi
December 1, 2009
What if each educator spent one hour to raise awareness and build skills regarding HIV and AIDS prevention, and advocacy for universal treatment, care, and support?
Just one hour.
One hour can be enough to motivate people to take the lead throughout the year. And starting this year, we have invited teachers and students around the world to spend “One Hour on AIDS.”
The idea is simple, the message is clear: teachers have a central role in raising awareness about HIV and AIDS. That’s the idea behind a set of activities we developed with Education International and the World Health Organization, activities that have now been translated into 20 languages and used by teachers unions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
These lessons have already been taught in countries around the world, from India, to Haiti, to Germany and to Pakistan. It’s our hope that our lessons will be taught in thousands more schools and union offices worldwide.
Creating a set of lessons and activities for so many countries would be challenging on any topic, but when the subject is HIV and AIDS, that presents an even bigger challenge. In developing these activities and in each training I conduct, no matter where, I encounter people who question whether they should even address HIV.
Overcoming this barrier is critical.
Consider the religious, cultural, and governmental restrictions on what can and should be talked about. Add in the misinformation, stigma, and discrimination that abound in many societies. So how to create a program that will be useful to all?
Critical to our work was figuring out what we could agree on:
First, HIV and AIDS are global issues. Millions of people around the world are infected with HIV. Many more are affected by the disease because they have immediate family, friends, students, or coworkers living with it.
Second, everybody has a right to an education, to the whole range of health and social services, and to live, study, and work to their fullest potential.
Third, the theme for World AIDS Day in 2009—‘Universal Access and Human Rights’—applies to everyone, including governments, communities, schools, families, and individuals.
Fourth, both young people and adults can take action.
To bring widen the circle of people to become involved in the discussion, we kept the messages simple, with no training or science background necessary. It’s important that we help people to figure out what AIDS means to them personally. In this way, there are no right or wrong answers.
Activists and politicians in countries such as Mozambique and Thailand have implored us not to be silent on HIV and AIDS. But in order to address this global crisis, we must consider questions such as these, What does it mean to know someone with AIDS in Pakistan? How is a person with AIDS treated in Botswana? What is the level of knowledge regarding transmission or treatment in Haiti?
AIDS does and will affect us all. But there are steps that we can all take to live full and productive lives: know your HIV status and monitor your immune system, eat well, exercise, and protect yourself.
Each one of us can play a part in protecting ourselves, educating others, advocating for policies and services, and supporting each other to live positively. World AIDS Day is an ideal opportunity to get involved. Start by taking one hour to talk about HIV and AIDS today.
Scott Pulizzi is a senior project director at the Massachusetts-based Education Development Center. He has made more than 50 trips to Africa in his work to alleviate HIV and AIDS