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LIBERIA: HIV/AIDS Education, a First for Liberian Classrooms
8/11/2006 10:01 AM

HIV/AIDS will be on the curriculum next month for 10,000 Liberian students at the Lutheran Church School System, the third largest church-school network in Liberia, which has made HIV/AIDS education mandatory in its 40 schools.

This is the first time that Liberian school children will receive HIV/AIDS education in the classroom in a country where HIV infection was estimated in 2003 by UNAIDS to be 5.9 percent, or 8.2 percent by Liberian health authorities.

More recent figures on infections are not available, although a survey by the UN children’s agency UNICEF in 2005 found one-third of 10-25 years olds in Lofa County in the north of the country had never heard of AIDS,

And even in the capital Monrovia, where HIV/AIDS awareness was almost 100 percent, condom use was alarming low. Only one in ten of over 1,000 respondents who said they had heard about AIDS regularly used condoms, according to UNICEF.

"We found that information campaigns about the disease do target young people, but we decided to take that one step further by having information about HIV/AIDS taught as part of the students’ lessons,” said the acting coordinator of the Lutheran Church School System HIV/AIDS Education Project, James Woods.

Students will learn about sexuality, hygiene and healthy living, as well as the basic facts about the disease including how it is transmitted and how to prevent infection. The course will be taught by 80 specially trained teachers.

As part of the curriculum, Woods said, HIV/AIDS Clubs will be established in all of the Lutheran Church schools so that students can take what they have learned in their classes and spread the message within their communities.

"We hope that other private and government schools around the country will follow in the footsteps of the Lutheran Schools,” said George Taypison, a social worker with the community-based HIV/AIDS Outreach Prevention Association.

“Teaching AIDS as part of the curriculum will encourage more young people to take precautions against the disease,” he said.

The Lutheran Church School System is the third largest church-run school network in Liberia after the Roman Catholic Church and the Methodist Church.

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.

Published in: LIBERIA: HIV/AIDS education, a first for Liberian classrooms, IRINNews, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, August 8, 2006. © IRIN.