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Wednesday, December 5, 2012
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Fight ignorance to increase anti-HIV/AIDS awareness

I think gloomily of over 400 organizations that claim to be working on HIV/AIDS while ignorance is widespread and damaging……

How can you build the 3rd storey of a house before laying the foundations? Too many have never had proper teaching about basic reproductive health. About 8 years ago, the Bangladesh Centre for Communication Programs (BCCP) brought out a wonderful Adolescent Reproductive Health 'suitcase' of resources for 9 -19 year olds, including booklets, DVDs/Videos in 4 stages, beginning with 'Its your puberty' and ending with marriage preparation and HIV/AIDS - though this was made optional. A team came to the school where I was Principal to show it to the teachers, many of whom said, “I wish I had been told these things!” and wondered how anyone could take exception to the material.

I was given a huge list of schools that had agreed to use it and noted they were all Bengali-medium. (The resources were in both languages but I was told it is a difficult subject to teach in Bengali as so many of the words used are considered 'dirty' whereas, in English, they are more neutral.) I asked the superintendent if our school could use it.

The owner of the time had friends in politics and education and later reported, “They laughed and said the resources had only been ordered to please the donors but they would lie on the shelves until they got dusty and then be thrown away as the parents would never agree.” Later, I wondered if schools could close for a day and have it as a voluntary programme for the children of parents who did agree….

No one is protected by ignorance. All Bangladeshis must be informed of the risks they take. Who can say, “I would be embarrassed to say anything!” when the risks of not informing - or permitting misinformation - are so huge? But so are the rewards to those who are given the chance to lose the passing 'innocence' that are ignorance, in a context in which they are helped to develop the moral sense that can lead to 'purity'.

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