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International News

Zimbabwe: Stigma Among Educators Still a Barrier in AIDS Fight

June 20, 2003

On the main wall of a one-room Mazankwe schoolhouse in Zimbabwe's lower Gweru district is a list of the five main causes of HIV/AIDS: "razor blades, needles, scissors, blood transfusion and toothbrushes." Due to the stigma and taboo associated with the real causes of the pandemic, teachers use fallacious reasoning to explain the causes of HIV/AIDS to their students. The most obvious cause -- unsafe sex -- is nowhere to be found on the blackboard.

"The main barrier to overcome is the issue of stigma among educators," said Bernard Batidzirai, UNICEF's Zimbabwe HIV/AIDS and Life Skills officer. "Teachers who themselves may be affected with the virus will tend not to be open about teaching it in class. Other teachers are simply too embarrassed to talk about sex. Getting the message through to our teachers should be the easy part -- but even that is proving to be a challenge."

UNICEF is working as the technical advisor to Zimbabwe's Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture to design syllabi for grades four through seven integrating HIV/AIDS themes and life-skills. Lessons will revolve around HIV/AIDS and decision making, problem solving, and empathy toward those with the virus. Schools will be required to teach at least one class on HIV/AIDS per week. UNICEF is also continuing a program for teacher training in life-skills education.

"Along with the ministry, we are proposing to create a psycho-social support program for teachers and other educational support staff," said Batidzirai. "The idea of having volunteer teachers has also been proposed, so that there can be trained persons devoted solely to the teaching of HIV/AIDS education. Everybody should play a role in the proper delivery of correct information to the community." Teachers at the Mazankwe School have the potential to reach more than 100 students daily with the HIV prevention message.

Back to other CDC news for June 20, 2003

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Adapted from:
Africa News
06.16.03; Daily News (Harare)

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on HIV/AIDS Prevention in Zimbabwe