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AIDS Awareness & Family Education for Every Citizen

HIV/AIDS is not only a biomedical phenomenon but a social reality rooted in human behavior. It is product of human actions in social contexts. The actions and their circumstances are shaped by larger cultural and social structures.  Therefore to have a significant impact on the epidemic, education interventions must be rigorously designed according to best practices and adapted to local needs.
Among the Indians, sexual norms are still to abide by the life-long of monogamy, while, in most societies severely hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the norms have been 'change of partners'. Virginity before marriage is still highly valued among most Indians and families have by and large greater control over the behavior of children at least until they are married and settled. However, with India's shift from a predominantly agricultural, low subsistence and low consumption economy and a community based social structure, to an industrially developing nation with urbanization; migration and breakdown of rural economics, joint family system and communities, there have been shifts in social values and world views. The degree and nature of this impact has been varies across different sections. The weakening controls have allowed grate individual freedom and releasing the stifling controls on young people.
High consumption life-styles have raised aspirations of others and increased the consumption gap between the top and bottom sections. Along with the increasing value placed on material consumption, there has also been an increase in perception of sexuality as a commodity to be 'consumed' for pleasure. The gap between material aspirations and socio- economic status has led to distortions such as the spread of promiscuity, corruption, growth of the Mafia, drug trafficking etc. All these factors have also contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS in the sub-continent.
HIV Awareness and Family Education: WHY?
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS at the moment and no vaccine for prevention. The only way for prevention is education and behavior modification.  There is a need for professionally trained and skilled personnel certified by a competent authority (like an institution of higher education) such as university.  There is resistance from parents and teachers to schools going for education on sensitive topics such as HIV/AIDS and sex education. We need to create awareness, provide knowledge and skills so that the trainers of trainees (TOTs) can skillfully handle such topics. What we require today is to manage the illness through indigenously developed prevention strategies and not relying on materials prepared for people belonging to other social and cultural settings. There should be adequate in-put in terms of our traditional cultural, social, moral and religious values. There is stigma attached to the HIV/AIDS disease which forces the infected to hide. Education with appropriate information will help people to provide better home care and emotional support. There is lot of misconception, misinformation and inaccurate information on the subject of HIV/AIDS. A carefully planned curriculum will seek to provide accurate, complete and authentic information on the subject. There is a demand for a formal programme of study on these topics from those who are involved in work related to HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and family crisis management.
Purposes of AIDS Awareness & Family Education
People should have the knowledge and skills needed for healthy human relationships, effective communication, and responsible decision-making behavior that will protect themselves and others from HIV/STD infection and optimize health. The goals of AIDS programmes include promoting behaviors that prevent the transmission of HIV/STD, fostering attitude and behavior that will prevent discrimination against those who are infected with HIV/STD, and promoting solidarity among them.
Everyone should:
* Understand the nature of HIV/AIDS/STDs and its transmission.
* Understand the nature and consequences of substance abuse.
* Have accurate and complete information about facts of life.
* Develop appropriate communication skills for life.
* Make informed decisions about behavior that protect them from HIV/AIDS/STDs and drug addiction.
* Understand the symptoms of HIV/AIDS/STDs and seek appropriate medical care when needed.
* Value their own health and relationships free from HIV/AIDS and substance abuse.
* Behave personally and socially in ways that eliminate the risk of spreading HIV infection and becoming addict.
* Reject biased information and myths relating to facts of life and HIV infection.
* Develop positive attitude towards those who are infected with HIV and addicted to drugs.
* Increase the level of knowledge about the impact of HIV/AIDS and substance abuse on the community, society, economy of the country etc.
* Develop skills in initiating action-oriented programmes for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS and substance abuse, sensitizing people, initiating teaching, research and extension programmes etc.
* Develop modules and teaching aids for use at grassroots level.
Who gets benefits from AIDS Awareness & Family Education?
Teachers (schools, colleges and universities), Persons Care workers with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Health Care workers including physicians, nurses, hospital administrative staff and other para-medicals, Personnel and welfare officers from corporate sectors; Young people who are yet to get married; Newly married couples; College and university students; Parents of adolescents; Workers in social and social welfare institutions such as prisons, orphanages, rescue homes, hostels, boarding houses, rehabilitation homes, etc.; People working among sex  workers and street children; Staff de-addiction centres; Legal officers; Religious leaders; Journalists and media professionals; Persons employed in armed forces and Para-military personnel ; People involved in counseling services for family, youth, drug addicts, hospitals etc.
Role of Distance Education
The 6-months Certificate course in HIV and Family Education (CAFÉ) and one year Diploma in HIV and Family Education (DAFE) of IGNOU provides comprehensive knowledge about the what, why and how of the problems of HIV/AIDS, how it can be prevented and controlled, and how to take care of those who are already infected with HIV. To impart an integrated understanding to learner about the crucial dimensions of the problems and issues associated with HIV/AIDS, substance abuse (i.e. Abuse of alcohol and drugs) and human behavior, also introduces the learner to the fundamental aspect of family life education including sexual health education.
To improve the awareness level, it is necessary to include the HIV and Family Education subjects at school education level, at undergraduate / PG studies.   It can also be part of all kind of training programmes organized by government agencies.  This in turn will improve the situation and save a lot of life. (The author is Regional Director of IGNOU, Regional Centre, Port Blair and can be reached at (M-8900936718)


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