UNESCO and its partners have concluded regional training orientations to strengthen the response to HIV/AIDS among teachers in Uganda. In 2021, UNESCO, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) and the Teachers Anti-AIDS Action Group (TAAG) have partnered to reduce the threat of HIV/AIDS on education service delivery in Uganda.
Available data indicates that in secondary schools, an estimated 10,210 students and 1,000 teaching and non-teaching staff are living with HIV; while in primary schools, 38,789 (18,848 male and 19,941 female) students and 2,000 teachers were HIV positive (MoES 2017).
Regional education sector HIV workplace policy training guidelines and HIV information pack provided a forum for stakeholders to share accurate information on prevention, care, HIV treatment and support. The overall objective of the intervention was to contribute to the creation of an enabling environment, free from HIV-related stigma and discrimination against learners, teachers and other school actors living with and affected by HIV. HIV and AIDS in Uganda.
The 2-day regional training orientations were held in Gulu (Acholi region), Jinja (Busoga region), Soroti town (Karamoja sub-region) and Lira town (Lango sub-region) from July to September 2022 and targeted teachers living with or affected by HIV and AIDS.
Speaking at the start of the 2-day training workshop in Lira town, the Senior Human Resources Officer at the Ministry of Education and Sports, Mr. Derrick Busherurwa appreciated UNESCO for supporting the education sector in the organization of training. He added that “The training comes at a good time as the education sector in Uganda is concerned about increasing cases of HIV/AIDS infections, HIV stigma in schools among learners and teachers. These increased infections were further aggravated by Covid-19 during the two-year lockdown.”
Ms. Teddy Chimulwa Nabwire, National Health and Wellbeing Education Program Manager at UNESCO Uganda Project Office, highlighted the importance of the intervention emphasizing that it is fully within the objective three of the UNESCO strategy on education for health and well-being 2022-2026 which establishes strategies for ‘promote safe and inclusive learning environments, free from all forms of violence, bullying, stigma and discrimination‘. She added that the workshop was aimed at disseminating the education sector HIV in the workplace policy and briefing pack as key reference documents to help the education sector respond to challenges of HIV and AIDS.
Mr. Charles Draecabo, UNESCO, welcomed the participation of teachers in the regional orientation exercise. In his remarks, he said that UNESCO, along with other UN agencies, wants to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, noting that education is one of the best HIV prevention tools available. “Each additional year of secondary education can lead to a reduction in the cumulative risk of HIV infection, especially among adolescent girls and women (AGYW). We all have a role and a responsibility to ensure that AGYW are in schools as a preventative measure. . To keep them out is to expose them to vulnerabilities.”
The orientations were participatory and structured to incorporate group discussions on various key issues and thematic areas. Among the topics covered included; unpacking HIV in the workplace policy and information pack, risk factors for vulnerability of HIV infections among teachers and learners in education sectors, HIV testing, counseling and support as well as care and support for teachers and learners affected by the outbreak, among others.
Key action areas emerging from the workshop included the development of district-specific action plans to guide the implementation of interventions. The orientation workshop reached a total of 111 teachers, including 61 men and 50 women who became ambassadors for HIV prevention, care, treatment and support for learners and adult populations in school settings.