HIV/AIDS Education in South Africa: Teacher Knowledge about HIV/AIDS: Teacher Attitude about and Control of HIV/AIDS Education

Article excerpt

The aim of this study was to assess secondary school teachers' comfort in teaching adolescents about sexuality and HIV/AIDS, behavioral control and outcome beliefs about HIV/AIDS education and teacher knowledge about HIV/AIDS. The sample consisted of 54 male (35.6%) and 96 female (64.4%) secondary school teachers who were mostly life stkills teachers, from 150 schools across South Africa. Findings suggest that most secondary school teachers, are knowledgeable about AIDS, feel moderately comfortable teaching students about AIDS-related topics, have the knowledge and ability to teach about HIV/AIDS, but lack some material and community support. Teacher in-service training was found to have a significant impact on perceived behavioral control of HIV/AIDS education and HIV/AIDS knowledge.

In 2002 the estimated national South African human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence rate among 15- to 19-year-olds was 6% (4% in males and 7% in females), 20- to 24-year-olds 13% (8% in males and 17% in females) and 25to 29-year-olds 28% (22% in males and 32% in females), and among African/Black youth 15-24 years) 10.2%, Colored youth 6.4%, Indian youth 0.3% and Whites (15-49 years) 6.2% (Shisana & Simbayi, 2002).

School-based HIV-prevention education has been strongly recommended as a major strategy for increasing adolescents' HIV-related knowledge and prevention behaviors (Siegel, DiClemente, Durbin, Krasnovsky, & Saliba, 1995). A national life skills program for adolescents has been developed in South Africa by the Departments of Health and Education. According to the Department of Health and Department of Education, South Africa Project report (1997/98) the goal of this life skills and HIV/AIDS education learning program for Grades 8-12 is to increase knowledge, develop skills, promote positive and responsible attitudes, and provide motivational supports. Expected outcomes are that students will be able to: demonstrate a clear and accurate understanding of sex, sexuality, gender, and sexually transmitted diseases; critically identify ways in which HIV/STDs can and cannot be transmitted; identify and evaluate the effectiveness of HIV/STD prevention methods; identify, access, and mobilize sources of assistance within a community; critically evaluate reasons for delaying sexual intercourse or practicing abstinence; respond assertively to pressures for sexual intercourse; critically evaluate reasons and methods for having protected sex when/if sexually active; respond assertively to pressures for unprotected sex; accept, cope, and live positively with the knowledge of being HIV-positive; show compassion, empathy, and solidarity toward persons with HIV/AIDS and those affected; recognize the need to provide basic care for people with AIDS in the family and community and those affected; understand the grieving process and cope with loss.

In South Africa at the beginning of 1997, about 10,000 teachers were trained to teach the life skills program, aiming to reach two teachers in each secondary school in each province. Early evaluation of the program shows that there have been difficulties in its implementation, which are not further elaborated on (Harrison, Smit & Myer, 2000). In 2001 Soul City distributed life skills materials for Grade 9 learners to all secondary schools in the country. The materials aimed to: provide relevant information on the emotional and physical changes of puberty including contraception and pregnancy; improve HIV/AIDS-related knowledge, and promote practices that effectively prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STDS; develop skills that will enable young people to develop safe sexual behaviors or change risky behaviour and make healthy choices for their lives; build young people's capacity to develop healthy relationships; and promote positive values and attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS.

The role of teachers in disseminating HIV/AIDS information seems critical for the success of school-based programs. …