Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of World AIDS Day
1 December 2021
"Four years ago, my school found out about my HIV status. Parents forbid their children to interact with me, and the kids insulted me and wouldn't talk to me. Their parents signed a petition to have me expelled from school." This is the story of a 14-year-old girl named Aida. It may sound like the experience of someone growing up decades ago, when fear of HIV and AIDS was at its height. Sadly, however, Aida lived this only recently.
Today, stories like Aida's should be a thing of the past: with access to treatment and care, young people growing up with HIV live long, healthy lives, and build families and relationships just like their peers. Despite this, the over 1.7 million adolescents and young people living with HIV continue to face unacceptable stigma and discrimination in school settings. Too many young people receive inadequate health education. This reinforces fears and misconceptions around HIV and AIDS and fails to provide them with critical knowledge and life-skills.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the connections between education, health, and equality. It has also reminded us that accurate information is one of our most powerful public health tools. The education sector has a transformative role to play in promoting the health and well-being of all learners and ending inequalities, stigma and discrimination. That is why UNESCO is proud to announce, on the occasion of World AIDS Day 2021, the launch of an exciting new set of recommendations on meeting the needs of young people living with HIV in the education sector.
Developed in close partnership with the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), and under the leadership of young people living with HIV, the "Positive Learning” recommendations will provide countries with updated guidance on fostering an inclusive, health-promoting school environment free from all forms of violence, stigma and discrimination. So that Aida and young people like her will never again see their right to education trampled by fear and ignorance.