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UN partners with Italian foundation to promote AIDS education in Africa

UN partners with Italian foundation to promote AIDS education in Africa

Hundreds of thousands of students in four southern African countries stand to benefit from HIV and AIDS prevention education thanks to a new partnership between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Italy’s Fondazione Virginio Bruni Tedeschi.

The agreement, signed at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters today, includes $1.7 million in funding for an HIV/AIDS prevention education project in Angola, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland for two years.

Southern Africa is among the regions hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with infection rates as high as 30 per cent among adults. The new initiative will help provide prevention education programmes and materials to some 100,000 students in each of the target countries.

Nearly 100 schools and a thousand teachers will be involved in the initiative, which will also include activities related to reducing stigmatization of HIV-positive people.

UNESCO notes that while studies have shown that the mere fact of attending school provides protection against the disease, there is often a lack of classes focusing on HIV/AIDS for children in school.

As the UN agency specializing in education, UNESCO is the lead organization for EDUCAIDS, an initiative by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) implemented by a number of countries to promote HIV/AIDS education. The agency assists governments in improving their educational systems to ensure quality education on HIV/AIDS and in providing assistance to communities most exposed to the epidemic.

Created in February of this year, the foundation honours the memory of Virginio Bruni Tedeschi, an Italian graphic designer who died of cancer in July 2006.