Global perspective Human stories

Half a million Zimbabwean children to benefit from UN-backed AIDS project

Half a million Zimbabwean children to benefit from UN-backed AIDS project

Almost 500,000 school children in Zimbabwe are expected to benefit from a United Nations-backed initiative to train 1,500 primary and secondary school teachers in new and practical ways to help stall the spread of HIV and AIDS.

The week-long training that began yesterday is supported by a $500,000 grant from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and will focus on teaching life skills for HIV prevention, addressing the gender dimensions of HIV, combating sexual gender-based violence, and providing psychosocial counselling.

Teachers will then be able to share vital information with the children so they can protect themselves against infection and continue Zimbabwe's successes in reducing the national HIV rate. In 2005 Zimbabwe became the first country in southern Africa to record a decline in HIV, with the adult rate falling to approximately 20 per cent today.

According to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (

UNAIDS), the drop can be attributed to delayed sexual debut for young people, faithfulness between sexual partners, and increased condom use.

“This is a remarkable achievement,” UNICEF country representative Festo Kavishe said. “However, the country still has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world and we must continue to reach young Zimbabweans with clear and relevant information. That's what this training will do.”

The training is being conducted by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture, the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education and VVOB-ZimPATH, an HIV/AIDS project of the Flemish Office for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance.

It will also help teachers in understanding and dealing with their own vulnerability to HIV and looks at issues of prevention, care and support, and anti-retroviral drugs.

The training follows successful efforts in 2006, where 1,200 teachers from 18 districts were trained. This year's instruction is being held at seven teachers training colleges in Harare, Masvingo, Mutare, Mutoko and Bulawayo.