Divya Ramamurthi

Young people being trained to become peer educators

UNICEF and some NGOs training young peopleProject initiated in Bangalore, Mysore, Raichur, Dharwad, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districtsThe aim is to facilitate a discussion on HIV/AIDS

BANGALORE: To create more awareness on HIV/AIDS, especially among the youth, UNICEF, in association with voluntary organisations, is training some young people to become peer educators.

The project, which has been initiated in the districts of Bangalore, Mysore, Raichur, Dharwad, Udupi and Mangalore, aims to facilitate a discussion on HIV/AIDS. The peer educators will talk to other youth on several issues of reproductive health and quality of life. "These projects are about improving quality of life, not only about sex education," said Michel Saint-Lot, State Representative, UNICEF office for Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. He was in Bangalore to take part in an event to mark Anti-Child Labour Day.

Mr. Saint-Lot said UNICEF was planning to focus on paediatric HIV/AIDS and the issue of children abandoned because of the disease. The estimated number of children (0-14 years) living with HIV/AIDS in India is 1,90,000. The estimated number of children orphaned by the disease is well over one crore, according to `The State of the World's Children 2006,' a report prepared by UNICEF. Throughout the State, there are 50,000 people affected with HIV/AIDS and five lakh estimated to be at high risk.

UNICEF, in partnership with an NGO, is developing the training material for the programme. The material will then be shared with five other NGOs working on the project. Work on the project has been going on for the past month.

Apart from creating peer educators, UNICEF is also planning to start health education for children from an earlier age. At present, lessons are being offered for 9th standard students, but from this year on it will be offered to students of standards seven and eight, Mr. Saint-Lot said.

UNICEF is also stepping up work in antenatal clinics. The work, which was being carried out at the district level, will now be taken to the taluk level as well.

According to the 2004 sentinel survey, the HIV prevalence levels ranged from 1.5 per cent among women at antenatal clinics to 21.6 per cent among female sex workers. The percentage of pregnant women who tested positive at antenatal clinics in Bangalore Rural district was 2.5 per cent and in 0.6 per cent in Bangalore Urban district.

UNICEF, along with the State Government, is organising an event in Bangalore on June 15, in which celebrities will participate, to create more awareness on the issue.