Teaching about HIV/AIDS through Online Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

HIV/AIDS prevention/education has been taught in classrooms for several years, yet exposure to infection remains to be a worldwide concern as behaviors have been slow to change in many cultures. It's important to be able to reach K-12 teachers and their students on a global scale. This article addresses how one model attempts to achieve such access through implementation of a worldwide online teacher-education platform.

Introduction

Although many Americans could believe that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus / Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) crisis may be over because recent data demonstrate that with proper intervention, a decrease in high-risk behavior among adolescents occurs (CDC, 2000a), (Bryan, Rocheleau, Robbins and Hutchison, 2005), it is still an ever present danger to our society and the world at large (CDC,2000b). Dr. Peter Plot, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, has stated, "On current trends, AIDS will kill tens of millions of people over the next 20 years. But this need not happen. We know prevention works." (Clifton, 2006). Likewise, Piot, Bartos, Ghys, Walker and Schwartlander (2001) determined that

   ... the scale of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/AIDS
   epidemic has exceeded all expectations ... an estimated 36
   million people are currently living with HIV, and some 20
   million people have already died, with the worst of the
   epidemic centered on sub-Saharan Africa ... as the spread
   of HIV has been greater than predicted, so too has been its
   impact on social capital, population structure and economic
   growth. Responding to AIDS on a scale commensurate with the
   epidemic is a global imperative, and the tools for an effective
   response are known.

American teenagers continue to practice unsafe behaviors related to HIV/AIDS, specifically as related to alcohol and tobacco use, while teenagers in other Western cultures feel that it's a "crisis of the 1980's". Likewise, educators in sub-Saharan Africa are perplexed to witness an explosion of the infection among students from all socioeconomic levels. Hence, a worldwide educational plan is needed to promote awareness and safer behaviors among students from all walks of life. Online teaching and learning represents an opportunity to achieve such worldwide social change.

In Western cultures the real crisis is a crisis of arrogance that is reflected in the idea that the spread of the disease is a "past crisis" and that we can "move on". In fact, although there has been a decrease in the practice of high-risk behaviors, many adolescents are still not getting the message. According to the Center for Disease Control (2006):

   ... many students still engage in (risk)-related ... behaviors
   ... During 1991--2005, the prevalence of sexual experience
   decreased 13% from 54.1% to 46.8% among high school students.
   Logistic regression analyses indicated a significant linear
   decrease overall and among female, male, 9th-grade, 10th-grade,
   11th-grade, 12th-grade, black, and white students. A significant
   quadratic trend also was detected among black students and
   11th-grade students. Among black students, this trend indicated
   that the prevalence of sexual experience declined during 1991-2001
   and then leveled off through 2005. Among 11th-grade students, the
   prevalence of sexual experience declined during 1991--1997 and
   then leveled off through 2005. Prevalence of sexual experience did
   not decrease significantly among Hispanic students."

Likewise, in sub-Saharan Africa, the impact of the disease has reached catastrophic proportions. A charity based in the United Kingdom, with a large focus of its work in Africa, cites:

   Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have failed to bring the
   epidemic under control ... There is a significant risk that some
   countries will be locked in a vicious cycle, as the number of
   people falling ill and subsequently dying from AIDS has a
   tremendous impact on many parts of African society, including
   demographic, household, health sector, educational, workplace and
   economic aspects. …