A local non-government organisation in Bangladesh says its program to integrate HIV/AIDS education into school curriculum is making big strides.
For more than 30 years, Bangladesh health education body PIACT has focused on issues relating to reproductive health, gender equality, poverty alleviation and indeed the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
And while the program has faced opposition at all levels, PIACT says it’s now shifting how young people perceive what is a very sensitive cultural issue.
Abu Yusuf Choudhury, the director of PIACT Bangladesh, says it’s important for young people to understand the virus and how it is transmitted.
“Because of low education level, we have less exposure of the young people to many important issues in these days,” Mr Choudhury says.
“The young people do not have adequate access for reproductive health issues because this is a cultural issue, they can not go to a health centre to ask for a condom.”
For the last seven years, Mr Choudhury has led a program which integrates HIV/AIDS information into the curriculum and onto the textbooks of secondary schools right across the country.
“This is [a] highly culturally sensitive issue, it was very difficult to do this thing in the text book for the young people,” he says.
“In our country, the people … they do not speak clearly about sex.
“So when a teacher will teach this HIV/AIDS issue in class that is not culturally accepted … they are objected [to] by other teachers, by the management committee and the parents.”
Mr Choudhury says although the information had made it into the school curriculum, teachers weren’t putting it into practice.
But he says things soon turned around and through training and awareness, and some persistence, the program has been a huge success.
“We have 32,000 education institutions, secondary level, in our country,” he says.
“We started the training in 2007 and we have almost finished all the education institutions and all the teachers of those institutions have been given training and they are successfully teaching this information in the classroom.
“The students who went to the school, they are freely talking about this thing.”
Joyetta Saha Piwoo is also from PIACT Bangladesh and she works on a program to prevent HIV among sex workers.
She says young women and adolescent girls are trafficked into brothels managed by ‘land ladies’, or women who often force the young girls to have sex with clients without a condom.
“Adolescent girls are high demand to the clients,” she says.
“The land ladies pressurise the sex workers for having sex with the client without condom, putting the girls in high risk of being infected with HIV.”