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close this bookAdolescent Sexuality and the HIV Epidemic (UNDP, 1999, 24 p.)
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View the documentHelping adults improve their skills
View the documentWork with young people in schools
View the documentWork with young people out of school
View the documentWork with young people at heightened risk

Helping adults improve their skills

In acknowledgement of young people's need to talk with adults about sex, and the breakdown of some of the traditional mechanisms for doing so, a number of programs and projects have attempted to foster improved sexual communication between adults and young people. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for example, traditional female healers have set up contemporary Unyago clubs for girls living in the urban setting. Parents are able to register their daughters at the club where girls are instructed in accordance with their own traditions and customs. While the Unyago clubs have not yet been evaluated, Fuglesang (1997) argues that contemporary sex education has much to learn from traditional rites of passage. For example, while modern sex education tends to be overly technical and biomedical, and somewhat removed from the socio-cultural context, the traditional approach may be more comprehensive and community-based. However, it should be noted that many traditional forms of sex education do not take gender inequality into account and may entrench these inequalities further.

Research in Mexico has revealed that many parents want to talk to young people about sex, but do not feel that they have the appropriate skills to do so (Givaudan et al, 1997). Following a training programme involving videos and group discussion, parents reported feeling better equipped to talk with their children about sex. However, it proved difficult to recruit fathers to the project, and since being of the opposite sex was reported as being a barrier to open communication, the project team concluded that male adolescents were at a clear disadvantage (Givaudan et al, 1997).

In Kenya, where it is estimated that some 70-80 per cent of people belong to a Christian denomination, ministers and priests have been targeted with messages about HIV and AIDS (Black, 1997). An intensive training course reached 160 ministers, priests and other church leaders. A guide was also developed designed to improve communication between parents and children and 5, 000 copies were distributed through churches. Clergy also used the guide to help advise parents in how to improve communication with their children. One measure of success for this project was that the Methodist Church initiated a HIV prevention program for young people in Nairobi and appointed a full-time director for this work as a result of participation in the awareness training for church leaders (Black, 1997).

It is important to recognise that teachers, like many other adults, find discussing sexual matters with young people difficult and embarrassing (Jejeebhoy, 1998). However, a supportive school environment can help teachers to overcome some of their worries. A program designed to train teachers for HIV/AIDS prevention in Zimbabwe found that teachers were keen to undertake HIV/AIDS education, but that experience had taught them that support from head teachers and key personnel from the education department was key to the successful programs of HIV/AIDS education (Woelk et al, 1997).