The Ministry of Education has published Cambodia’s first HIV/AIDS manual for the nation’s schools, in an effort to curb a growing health problem officials are calling Cambodia’s “second killing field.”
The small textbook is designed to give young Cambodians a basic familiarity with the HIV virus, the disease AIDS and their prevention.
It includes lessons on delaying sex and giving care and support to people with HIV/AIDS. The book contains enough material to fill 30 hours of classroom time.
The manual has been distributed to all secondary schools in the country, and is slated to be taught in ninth and 12th grade classes this year, Education Ministry officials said. A total of 1,385 teachers have been trained to teach the new manual.
“By concentrating our attention on this age group, we can have a wide coverage,” said Im Sethy, secretary of state for the Ministry of Education.
Of the roughly 11 million people in Cambodia, 2.3 million are in the schools, either as teachers or students, according to the Education Ministry. Cluster schools in the provinces will be an effective launch pad for educating people, Im Sethy said.
The price of ignorance about the deadly virus has been high in Cambodia.
“We have been through two killing fields,” Im Sethy said, referring to Cambodia’s lengthy civil war now followed by a growing AIDS epidemic.
About 170,000 Cambodians were reported as having the disease in 1999, according to the National Center for HIV/AIDS.
Some Cambodians don’t even believe AIDS exists. In a literacy survey conducted on approximately 6,500 people by the Education Ministry this year, only 22.8 percent of men and 17.6 percent of women responded correctly to questions about how to prevent HIV/AIDS.
Now Cambodians are very slowly coming to terms with the danger of HIV/AIDS.
“I see people passing the crematorium, where people being cremated are young. It used to be only old people,” Im Sethy said.
A draft version has been given a trial run in both urban and rural Cambodian schools.