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HIV/AIDS Education

Supporting HIV & AIDS education is one of FACT's most important missions. This area will shortly include detailed information about prevention of infection, how and where to get confidentially tested in the Greater Lehigh Valley area, and links to information on how to live and cope with HIV.


Why HIV/AIDS education?

Each year there are more and more new HIV infections, which shows that people either aren't learning the message about the dangers of HIV, or are unable or unwilling to act on it. Many people are dangerously ignorant about the virus - a survey found recently that a third of teens thought there was a 'cure' for AIDS. Education is an important component of preventing the spread of HIV.

Even if education were completely successful, it would still have to be an ongoing process - each generation a new generation of people become adult and need to know how to protect themselves from infection. The older generations, who have hopefully already been educated, may need the message reinforced, and need to be kept informed, so that they are able to protect themselves and inform the younger.

There are three main reasons for AIDS education, the first of which is to prevent new infections from taking place. This can be seen as consisting of two processes:

Giving people information about HIV - what HIV and AIDS are, how they are transmitted, and how people can protect themselves from infection.
Teaching people how to put this information to use and act on it practically - how to get and use condoms, how to suggest and practice safer sex, how to prevent infection in a medical environment or when injecting drugs.

A second reason that AIDS education is needed is to improve quality of life for HIV positive people. Too often, AIDS education is seen as being something which should be targeted only at people who are not infected with HIV in order to prevent them from becoming infected. When AIDS education with HIV positive people is considered at all it is frequently seen only in terms of preventing new infections by teaching HIV+ people about the importance of not passing on the virus. An important and commonly-neglected aspect of AIDS education with HIV positive people is enabling and empowering them to improve their quality of life. HIV positive people have varying educational needs, but among them are the need to be able to access medical services and drug provision and the need to be able to find appropriate emotional and practical support and help

The third reason people need AIDS education is to reduce stigma and discrimination. In many countries there is a great deal of fear and stigmatization of people who are HIV positive. This fear is too often accompanied by ignorance, resentment and ultimately, anger. Sometimes the results of prejudice and fear can be extreme, with HIV positive people being burned to death in India, and many families being forced to leave their homes across the United States when neighbors discover a family-member's positive status. Discrimination against positive people can help the AIDS epidemic to spread - if people are fearful of being tested for HIV, then they are more likely to pass the infection to someone else without knowing.

Who needs to be educated?

Anyone who is vulnerable to AIDS, and almost everyone is vulnerable, unless they know how to protect themselves. It's not only young people, injecting drug users or gay men who become infected - the virus has affected a cross-section of society. This means that education ought to be aimed at all parts of society, not only those groups who are seen as being particularly high-risk. It is all very well to educate young people but it's usually adults who become infected, and in recent years there has been very little AIDS education targeted at adults. The people who are most urgently in need of HIV education are those who think they're not at risk.

People who have not yet been educated and may be at risk of becoming infected. This usually means young people, who need to know the risks involved in unsafe sex and drug use before they are old enough to find out for themselves.
People who have already been educated for whom the education was not effective. If AIDS education were completely effective, there wouldn't be nearly so many new infections. These infections do not only occur amongst young people - many people who have already experienced AIDS education continue to become infected with HIV.

"A few months after we started having unprotected sex, I fell gravely ill. . . I recovered slowly but . . . I guess the warning signs have been there since I fell sick earlier this year, I'm educated on HIV and some of my symptoms literally had the warning bells ringing inside my head. Still, the shock of discovering my status is something I will never wish on my worst enemy." TK-anonomous

Everyone needs to learn how and why not to discriminate against positive people. People who are not HIV positive must learn about how the virus is transmitted in order that they are able to protect themselves from infection. At the same time, they must also learn how the virus is not transmitted. People need to know that they cannot become infected from such things as sharing food, towels or toilets. This will help to reduce discrimination against positive people by reducing ignorance and fear.
People who are already infected also require education. Initially, this must involve an element of counseling and support, and must teach them how about living well with HIV, the tests they may need to have and the medications they may need to take. They must also learn about HIV transmission and safer sex, for two reasons - they need to know how to live positively without passing the virus on to anyone else, and they need to know how to avoid coming into contact with a strain of the virus which differs from the one they are already have.
The only people who do not fall into one of these groups are those who have received AIDS education, have taken it in, and have the resources to turn knowledge into action. One group who should hopefully fall into this category are AIDS educators. This may seem obvious, but in many cases, teachers may require teaching themselves. They may be called upon to act as AIDS educators when they themselves have little experience or knowledge of the subject. Peer educators must also receive training, even if they themselves are HIV+. Information for teachers and HIV educators will be found here.

If AIDS education that had been done up until now had been fully effective, then there wouldn't have been over five million new infections in 2004. It is clear that the campaigns carried out so far have failed to prevent the spread of the virus, so the message needs to be repeated, in different forms, until people appreciate it, or until, hopefully, education is no longer needed.


The FACT website HIV/AIDS informational area is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through the FACT website or any sites linked to should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your healthcare provider.

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