wpid-hiv-ribbon0.jpgHIV/Aids continue to be a global challenge to public health although there has been some significant reduction in its infection over the years.

This was revealed by Prof. John Anarfi of the University of Ghana, Legon at the opening session of a three-day symposium on HIV ?education policy development and implementation in higher education institutions, organised by the Association of African Universities (AAU) in collaboration with UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) on Education.

According to Prof. Anarfi, progress has been made by sub-saharan African countries in the fight against the pandemic and that the reduction can be traced to the change in behavioural patterns, in areas of safe sex practise, condom use among others.

On his part, the Minister of Education has noted that since early 2000 the Association of African Universities, (AAU) has involved the Ministry of Education in its activities by constantly informing us of higher education events around Africa as well as of meetings taking place in this country.

He said, the Ministry recognised that the AAU has consistently promoted interchange and co-operation among universities in Africa through its Conference of Rectors, Vice-Chancellors and Presidents of African Universities (COREVIP) and its General Conference in keeping with one of your objectives.

He noted that, higher education continues to be given priority on the African development agenda after several decades of neglect. ?It is worth mentioning that campaigns of bodies such as the AAU, UNESCO etc. continue to yield results.? Much of sub-Saharan Africa has suffered deep stagnation over the last two decades, and is staggering under the weight of domestic and international conflict, disease (especially the plague of HIV&AIDS), poverty, corruption and natural disasters.?

According to the Minister, Tertiary and higher education institutions must be aware of how HIV and AIDS is affecting their functioning and operation, especially in countries where the prevalence is high, adding that HIV and AIDS can reduce student enrolments through deaths, illness, financial constraints, and demand for home care of sick relatives and friends.

He averred that HIV and AIDS also increase the cost of training academic and support staff due to attrition, premature deaths, and employee benefits given in case of illness or after death.

Moreover, these impacts he noted, can adversely affect the quality of education within the institution because sick, depressed, unmotivated or demoralized staff cannot be expected to teach effectively, nor can infected and affected students be expected to fully comprehend educational instructions or assume all the course workloads.

Different interventions, he mentioned, can be adopted to address the transmission mechanisms of HIV. ?Collectively, they can slow the spread of HIV.? The spread of HIV/AIDS is mostly through heterosexual contact, therefore effort that aim at reducing the spread of the infection must be focused on interventions that limit sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS.? These include:

-???? Promoting abstinence among the youth, both in school and out of school

-??? Reducing the overall number of sexual partners among students and teachers alike

-??? Delaying the onset of sexual activity among adolescents

-???? Promoting the use and consistent availability of condoms, including female condoms

-???? Strengthening programmes for STI control

-???? Encouraging voluntary counselling and testing

-???? Expand services to vulnerable groups within the education group at all levels.?

In 2000, the Ministry of Education (MOE) began implementation of HIV/AIDS intervention programmes under guidelines contained in the strategic plan covering five years. Prior to this initiative, MOE had integrated Population/Family Life Education topics into existing curricula in four career subjects at each level of the school programme: Primary, Junior Secondary (JSS), Senior Secondary (SSS), Teacher Training and University level.

Key elements of the MOE plan involve the strengthening linkages among learners, educators, individuals and communities to combat the spread of the disease, training of teachers as motivators and students as peer educators for early diagnosis and treatment of STIs, and condom distribution and advocacy.

The Government of Ghana for some years now has focused its attention on the effect of HIV&AIDS on education in general and will continue to do so under the better agenda.

The Education minister however stated that it was gratifying to note that the Association of African Universities through its HIV&AIDS project is collaborating with UNAIDS to reduce the impact the disease has on higher education.

?The UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) on Education and partners, I understand, are by this symposium seeking to explore issues and good practices regarding HIV in tertiary educational settings and discuss a wide range of issues concerning learners and education staff. I hope that at the end of the day, your deliberations here today will go a long way in helping to reach the zero infection debate that we desire to achieve so that our tertiary education institutions will continue to produce the human resource that we need to develop the society.?

He commended the organizers of this workshop for their support to make the symposium possible.

The UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) on Education was

created in 2002 to support accelerated and improved education sector responses to HIV and AIDS.

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