2005-12-01-HIV subject of global lesson

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2005-12-01-HIV subject of global lesson


An estimated 500,000 pupils in the UK are taking part in a lesson on HIV and Aids to mark World Aids Day.

Around 10m children worldwide are participating in Lesson for Life, to highlight the effects of the disease on the world's children.

The lesson, organised by the Global Movement for Children, aims to raise awareness and call on governments to honour their pledges on HIV and Aids.

Fewer than 5% of child sufferers have access to treatment, aid agencies say.

Insight

Fabien Brissett, 19, from East London, said the lesson at his sixth-form college had taught him that HIV was a greater problem in Europe than he had previously realised.

"I think the media has focused on Africa," he said.

"But we learned that in eastern Europe the infection rate is rising fast. And the UK infection rate is rising faster than I realised."

"I found the sheer number of people affected across the world quite striking," he said.

According the the World Health Organisation, some 40m people are HIV positive.

Fabien, from Brooke House Sixth Form College, said the lesson involved filling out a questionnaire which tested knowledge of the disease and how it was transmitted, as well as learning some facts and figures. And an adviser from children's agency PLAN spoke to the class.

"I did know there was no cure, but I was a little bit sceptical," he said. "I'd heard reports of people recovering from the disease."

Western governments are not offering enough financial assistance - as well as knowledge and drugs - to countries grappling with epidemics, Fabien says.

"The lesson has given me a much greater insight into what the disease means. We need to give it prominence and tackle it," he said.

Promises

Children much younger than Fabien have been learning about Aids this week.

John Orna-Ornstein, Education Manager for World Vision, a partner of GMFC, was involved in drawing up lesson plans for participating countries.

He said he had been impressed by the interest and knowledge of a class of 11-year-olds at Hounslow Manor School in west London.

"They were passionate and interested," he said. "And they were challenged on what they knew by their peers.

"This is what we want - people to educate others about the disease."

Mr Orna-Ornstein said the purpose of the lesson in UK schools was to inform pupils how the disease is transmitted, educate them about the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV, and ask them to advocate the rights of children - perhaps by writing to their MP.

"Children here are much less likely to be directly affected by the disease, but they need to know the basic facts, and that we are living in an increasingly inter-dependent world," he said.

In other countries, children are getting out of the classroom to make a statement about Aids.

In Zambia, children are visiting the health minister to demand free treatment, and in Vietnam a question and answer session has been organised with government ministers.

Non-governmental organisations in each country implement the lesson plan provided by the Global Movement for Children locally according to their needs.

GMFC involves non-governmental organisations such as World Vision, PLAN, and Unicef.

Kate Norgrove, Lesson for Life communications manager, said that in other countries the lesson was about raising awareness locally of HIV and Aids, but also about calling on governments to honour their promises and act to provide treatment.

She said the G8 group of industrialised countries had so far fallen far short of the funding they promised to tackle HIV at their summit three months ago, and as a result, no new projects to increase treatment had begun between July and September.

"Children are just asking for governments to take as much action as they are themselves," she said.

 


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