High school students in South Africa and America teamed up with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to launch the AIDS Prevention Project, continuing the crusade against HIV and AIDS.
Nearly 30 years after first being discovered by a team of Los Angeles doctors, HIV/AIDS continues to terrorize people all over the world. The disease is presently incurable, but that grim fact has not hindered the efforts of educators and students to spread awareness about the illness regarding prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
“We need you as much as you need us-we must work hand in hand,” said AFT Vice President Lorretta Johnson. “While we appreciate the financial support of all of our governments in our efforts to fight AIDS, we as teachers know that we need to learn from each other about what has worked and not worked in our classrooms, in our schools and in our communities.”
Alongside AFT President Randi Weingarten, students and their teachers from Artesia High School of Los Angeles recently traveled to South Africa to join the students of Manenberg High School in Cape Town to promote their cause and take advantage of the greatest media platform of this day-the Internet-to provide information about HIV/AIDS in their hard-hit communities.
The activists will use the Internet and Web-based interactive technology to exchange information about the impact of HIV/AIDS in their respective communities. “Our ability to come together across oceans and continents for this important effort illustrates once again a key fact about our schools: Education is so much more than math, science and reading,” Weingarten stated during the launch ceremony for the project in Cape Town. “Schools are also part of the life of the communities they serve.
“In this project, our focus is on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS,” Weingarten continued, “but the skills that it teaches-the ability to access information, to gain knowledge and, through critical thinking, to use that information to solve problems-will serve our students throughout their lives, whether they are here in Cape Town or Lakewood, Calif., or wherever they find themselves as they move through life.”
Today, South Africa remains the leading country with infected individuals, primarily due to lack of education regarding the subject. It is estimated that 5.24 million South Africans are living with HIV and that AIDS has accounted for more than 40 percent of all deaths in South Africa every year since 2002. Last year, it was estimated by the South African government that there were 410,000 new HIV infections in 2010 alone, with 40,000 being amongst children.
“This is a plague that can destroy our education systems,” concluded Johnson. “For those most in need who have no alternative, we must work together.”