Cynthia Leonor Garza
Every year on Dec. 1, millions of people across the globe—including the 1.4 million members of the American Federation of Teachers—observe World AIDS Day in order to focus attention on HIV/AIDS and efforts to control its spread. This year’s theme is universal access and human rights.
WASHINGTON—For more than 25 years, the American Federation of Teachers has worked to combat the scourge of AIDS through domestic and international programs, including the expansion this year of a dynamic program in South Africa in which teachers are trained to be peer educators on the subject of HIV/AIDS.
The AFT is working with South African teachers unions to train peer educators so they can help other teachers assess their HIV risk and can encourage a healthy lifestyle. Thanks to a grant from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the project will dramatically increase the scope of its HIV counseling and testing services by targeting 10,000 teachers throughout South Africa.
The southern region of Africa still has the highest concentration of HIV infections in the world. Although significant progress has been made in the first phase of the PEPFAR funding by providing life-sustaining drugs to millions, much remains to be done in preventing new infections and eliminating discriminatory practices against HIV-infected people.
In the United States, the AFT will continue the important work of its long-standing domestic programs, including union-based school-workplace HIV/AIDS programs for affected teachers, and curricula for students on the transmission, prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Last year, the AFT launched an AIDS awareness Web site, www.aft.org/topics/aids, which has tools and resources that can be used in AIDS education and AIDS awareness campaigns and projects.