Universities to train teachers and youth leaders in AIDS awareness

GHANA: Universities to train teachers and youth leaders in AIDS awareness

ACCRA, 31 Jan 2005 (PLUSNEWS) - Thousands of trainee teachers and youth leaders in Ghana are to receive HIV/AIDS awareness and sensitisation training as part of a Canadian-backed initiative to tackle stigma surrounding the disease, the director of the project said.

"HIV/AIDS is increasingly becoming a problem in our country but we hardly talk about sex in our communities. This course aims at prevention and creating the requisite knowledge about the condition by efforts to remove the stigma associated with it," project director Reuben Aggor told PlusNews at the weekend.

The new one-semester course titled "Reducing HIV Stigma By Education" will be launched in October 2006. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is providing a US $1.2 million five-year sponsorship package to support the programme.

Courses will run at Ghana's two main teacher-training institutions, the University of Education, Winneba, and the University of Cape Coast, as well as the University of Ghana.

The Simon Fraser University of Vancouver is working with its Ghanaian counterparts to develop the syllabus, which will be taught by distance learning.

"In all, we aim to train about 5,000 trainee teachers and 500 youth leaders a year," Aggor said.

There are plans to extend the course into other learning centres and workers colleges after an assessment at the end of the third year.

"This course should not be a one-off programme. We are determined to incorporate it fully into the country's educational curriculum," Aggor said.

The Ghana AIDS Commission, the government body charged with tackling the pandemic nationally, considers that there is already a high level of HIV/AIDS awareness as a result of media campaigns and communication strategies, but changing the behaviour of Ghana's 20 million inhabitants has proved more problematic.

"Behavioural change is something we can not achieve in six months. It is a complex area and we are dealing with a virus that deals with the very pleasures of life," Eric Pwadura of the Ghana AIDS Commission told PlusNews.

"But it certainly helps if a lot more teachers and youth leaders are knowledgeable about the disease," Pwadura continued. "This should help initiate a shift in behavioural change attitudes."

Ghana's HIV prevalence rate of 3.6 percent, according to a 2003 sentinel survey, is one of the lowest in the sub-region. But according to UNAIDS, there has been a steady increase in HIV prevalence in the country since 2000 - particularly in urban areas.


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