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Regional AIDS Prevention Effort Launched in Guinea

The government of Guinea is planning to roll out by the end of this school year a national HIV/AIDS prevention program that expands on a skills-based health education approach recently launched by the World Bank and UNICEF.

In August, 60 Guinean educators were trained in skills-based health education for the prevention of HIV/AIDS during a successful 10-day training workshop in Conakry, Guinea. The methods and lessons developed in the workshop will be used to strengthen the existing teacher development system, and to support the national program for HIV/AIDS prevention. These activities are part of a Bank-supported education project.

"HIV/AIDS has devastated education systems in East Africa. The education sector in West Africa has a chance to avoid this if it acts now. The immediate need is for prevention—for teachers as well as students," says World Bank program coordinator Don Bundy.

UNICEF trainer Alison Rowe-Lloyd, Guinean First Lady Henriette Conté, UNICEF/UNAIDS program officer Amaya Gillespie, UNICEF trainer Rod Ballard, and Guinea's head of school health Dr. Balla Camara

Binton Bamba, head of Guinea's national AIDS program, World Bank FRESH program officer Seung-hee Lee, Guinea's First Lady Henriette Conté, and a Mauritanian educator

West African educators in a participatory workshop on skills-based health education for the prevention of HIV/AIDS held in Conakry, Guinea

The training model, developed by UNICEF, has been successful in promoting positive behavior change for HIV/AIDS prevention in Asia and Latin America. Participants represented a wide range of the Guinean society from education policy makers, teacher trainers, teachers and health officers to religious leaders, students, and NGO representatives. Multi-sectoral teams from five other African countries also learned how to be trainers of trainers using this participatory method of health education.

The principle behind "skills-based learning" is that students need to learn how to make decisions and implement those decisions. While traditional teaching methods provide students with information, skills-based education teaches students how to use information to make decisions, how to negotiate, and self-assertion.

The Guinea workshop is part of major efforts by the Bank to help develop national HIV/AIDS prevention programs in schools. It is also one element of a new interagency initiative called FRESH—Focusing Resources on Effective School Health—a hygiene and nutrition program undertaken by UNICEF, UNESCO, WHO, and the World Bank and officially launched at the Dakar Education For All Forum in April 2000. The Guinea workshop was financially supported by the Norwegian Education Trust Fund, which also supports the FRESH partnership and its other core activities to promote educational access for the poor.

The workshop was launched by the First Lady of Guinea and supported by more than 10 government Ministers representing a broad range of sectors. This broad cross-sectoral support at the highest level is critical to the fight against HIV/AIDS, say the program developers. Speakers highlighted the importance and the urgency of fighting HIV/AIDS in schools with the full involvement of students.

"I was very pleased to see that the participants were excited by and appreciative of this new method of teaching," said FRESH program officer Seung-hee Lee. "I look forward to seeing this used in schools." Teaching children to make choices that will help them prevent HIV/AIDS is the key to this battle and Guinea workshop is a good beginning.

The success of the workshop has encouraged Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Senegal, and Mali to plan similar training workshops as the starting point for national skills-based health education programs to help them combat HIV/AIDS in schools. As these countries develop their programs, other countries are expecting to benefit from their experience and expertise to also launch effective, prevention programs through school health components in education projects.

For more details on the workshop, skills-based education or FRESH, please contact Seung-hee F. Lee x80504 or Don Bundy x33636.

Helpful links: For more on school health programs, go to http://www.ceid.ox.ac.uk/schoolhealth/.

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