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World AIDS Day 1st December 2011

Published 29th November 2011 by


What will YOU do this World AIDS Day?
That's the World Aids Day Strap Line (http://www.worldaidsday.org/ ) and it holds an important message for us all. What WILL we do? December 1st provides us all with a crucial focus to bring our awareness back to this hugely important world health issue – how HIV is acquired and how it is spread.
In schools and colleges across the country we have in this Thursday an amazing opportunity to involve everyone in activities which inform us and get us thinking about two key messages – Being Aware and Acting Aware (http://www.hivaware.org.uk/ ).  The day provides another forum for us to examine our own values, beliefs and actions, and to address stereotypes and discrimination. A well planned World AIDS day and carefully executed activities can bring about really positive changes.
A day that starts with an AIDS awareness assembly, possibly with an external speaker with experience, provides the chance to make a massive impact at many levels making some of the following points about HIV in 2011.  Over 90% of people with HIV were infected through sexual contactYou can now get tested for HIV using a saliva sampleHIV is not passed on through spitting, biting or sharing utensilsOnly 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers have HIVYou can get the results of an HIV test in just 15-20 minutesThere is no vaccine and no cure for HIV(http://www.worldaidsday.org/about-hiv.php )If everyone involved in the activities to follow is present then questions raised can be addressed throughout the rest of the day (and beyond.)
In classrooms with no computer access there's a printable quiz from UNICEF which we can use for “being aware” - and to dispel some common myths about transmission www.unicef.org/lifeskills/files/1.KnowingYourRisk.doc This not only fits perfectly in any health studies , citizenship, social studies, sex and relationships education sessions but also in the less obvious subjects like history, geography, religious and cultural studies and even careers in caring.
My personal favourite activity as a sex educator has got to be the Condom Olympics (stretching, blowing up, water filling, speed demonstrations, speed demonstrations with blindfolds etc) as there's a very clear message to be made about how easily we can protect ourselves and our partners from sexually acquired HIV by using barrier protection. It's a very good fast paced ice-breaker, containing visual auditory and kinaesthetic components, and is always well received.
But let's not miss the opportunity to use our IT sessions to raise awareness of the materials both on-line generally and in our students' favourite social networks. Facebook for example provides links to hundreds of HIV/AIDS related pages and groups offering materials which range from simple information sharing to campaigning, for example UNICEF has an online quiz and the National AIDS Trust provides facts and links to external sites https://www.facebook.com/pages/NAT-National-AIDS-Trust/28986393316
As a nation are exceptionally good at engaging with fundraising activities, and the activities are in themselves awareness raising. How about using some of the hivaware website's fundraising ideas like Bake Aware not only to raise money but also, for example, to explore the meaning and use of the Red Ribbon? http://www.hivaware.org.uk/act-aware/ideas-for-fundraising/fundraise/bake-aware.php
I would like to finish by saying though that AIDS education should not about one day once a year, and so there has to be an ongoing commitment if we are to have an impact on the “Acting Aware” aspect of HIV/AIDS. There is international evidence that when the topic ceases to be given high priority in education and of course when the resources required to sustain the necessary level of education are withdrawn, then unsafe behaviour returns. The ABC campaign in Uganda in the early 2000's and the “Don't Die of Ignorance” condom campaign in the UK in the 1980's are often quoted as examples of this how sustaining health promotion is crucial to long term behaviour change . Choosing to engage in safe behaviours and also changing from an unsafe behaviour to safer activities are both complex, and it would be wrong of me to suggest that one day will in itself be the answer.
By valuing World AIDS Day and ensuring that all of the key messages are repeated, sustained and taken seriously by those delivering them we can and will provide a really sound basis for the kind of open healthy discussion that leads to the desired healthy choices.
Barbara Hastings-Asatourian
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