In the most affected countries, HIV/AIDS is debilitating not only health, but social, economic and cultural systems. Its symptoms are clearly felt throughout the education sector, affecting both the capacity to supply schooling services and demand on the current formal system.
The net impact is impaired quality and equality of education, particularly where teachers are affected by family trauma or AIDS- related illness themselves, where families lose purchasing power, and where fewer resources are available to support services and infrastructure.
One of our key defenses against the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS is to ensure access to free and compulsory primary education of good quality, particularly for girls.
And learning to prevent and cope with HIV/AIDS must be considered part of that quality education. Curricula must respond to learners’ needs for knowledge, attitudes and life skills to avoid high-risk sexual behaviour and manage in a world with AIDS.
HIV/AIDS prevention programs that have balanced knowledge, attitudes and skills related to HIV transmission have proven more effective in actually changing behaviour than those that have focused on information alone.
Skills-based programs have proven more effective in delaying the age of first sexual intercourse, and increasing safe sex behaviour among sexually active youth (e.g., increasing use of condoms, reducing number of sexual partners).
Schools offer sexuality education through various types of classes. Other sources for sex education include parents, peer educators, faith- based settings, and programs for out-of-school youth.
Sexuality and family life education helps prepare young people for the transition to adulthood. In school, such programs can result in positive behaviour changes.
Aspects of education on sexuality are incorporated into various types of programs, called family life skills or family life education, or sometimes shortened simply to sex education. Sex education takes place in many, often overlapping, contexts. The major settings are schools, out-of-school and faith-based programs, programs for parents, and peer education.
Sex education can result in young adults delaying first intercourse or, if they are already sexually active, using contraception or reducing their risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or HIV. Almost all studies conclude that sex education does not lead to earlier or increased sexual activity.
According to UNESCO life skills education in the context of HIV and AIDS and Adolescent Education should be designed around the following concept:
• AIDS is a problem and we have the power to do something about it.
• HIV attacks our immune system and we should do all we can to strengthen our immune system.
• It is known how HIV is transmitted.
• Early treatment of other STDs can dramatically reduce the risk of infection with HIV
• Women are especially vulnerable to HIV infection and need information and skills to protect themselves and their children from infection.
• There are simple effective ways for everyone to prevent HIV infection.
• The time it takes for HIV to lead to AIDS can vary greatly and our health behaviour can affect that time period.
• There is no cure for AIDS but there are many treatments available.
• Protecting the human rights of people lives with HIV and AIDS not only helps them to live positive and productive lives but also helps to prevent HIV transmission in our community.
• Knowledge, attitudes and skills, need to be used together to help us practice behaviour that reduces risks for HIV and leads us to a healthier life.
It is now a commonly known fact that life skills education directly and indirectly results in the prevention of HIV and AIDS. However, many communities are still unsure about the importance of life skills education for the youth.
HIV and Life Skills Education
Due to the relevance of life skills education in bringing about HIV prevention among the young people, education agencies need to take up life skills education as a matter of concern and should not be hesitant to incorporate life skills education in the curriculum. In fact, they should take it up as their responsibility.
The need of the hour is to develop a strategy that frames the development/improvement of life skills as an educational process. Now, the understanding of life skills education has moved ahead whereby it has come to mean that nearly all skills based education results in the overall development of the individual.
Life skills stress on the importance of risk perception. It allows an individual to analyse the situation and the future consequences of his/ her actions. It poses a threat to him/her or others; he/she can take decision accordingly, to counter the same. Here, the definition of ‘risk’ may vary from people to people.
In order to facilitate the proper use of life skills education for the prevention of HIV and AIDS one must understand and accept the youth as they are. In the same way, if we are able to tackle issues of poverty, gender inequality, marginalisation, unemployment etc. it may be easier to bring about the winds of change as these issues are more or less the root causes of problems faced by many young people.
The understanding of HIV and AIDS as a developmental issue has gained momentum as more and more youth are caught in its web. If we are able to infuse the youth with the need to bring about change in the communities for the holistic development of the nation, then facilitating programmes for the prevention of HIV and AIDS through life skills based education will no longer be difficult.
Life skills should also be taught to the youth in relation to the sexual health education. Sexual health education cannot be separated from the life skills education. It is an integral part of it.
Sexuality and Life Skills Education
Sexuality is one of the most important aspects of life. Sexuality permeates the psychological and spiritual areas of a person’s life. At times it may become difficult for a person to come to terms with his/ her sexual preferences. He/she may want to seek guidance but may not know where to go for help.
It is important to note that the attitude of the young people will determine their future growth and their usefulness as members of the society. Hence, it is the need of the hour to provide accurate and complete information about matters concerning sex and sexuality through life skills based education to the young people before it is too late.
This will help them to become responsible citizens and to lead a healthy life. ‘Sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, eroticism, pleasure intimacy, bonding and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, roles and relationships.
While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical and religious and spiritual factors.’