Moscow, Russia – February 28, 2018. On the eve of the World Zero Discrimination Day UNESCO experts took part in a livestreamed talk show to support children and adolescents that face HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Organized by UNAIDS and UNESCO with the information support of Odnoklassniki social media network, the broadcasted event in OK.ru/test community attracted more than 890 000 views.
The talk show mainly focused on efforts that states, education sector, non-profit organizations and every single person can make to put an end to discrimination against children, adolescents and families affected by HIV. Personal confessions, emotions and recollections of these very people were actually used as a basis for the launch of the UNAIDS regional campaign #youareNOTalone in Russia and Armenia as well as for an interactive online series “It’s Complicated” that narrates a life-affirming story of a girl born and living with HIV. Building on the examples of these projects, guests and experts of the broadcast deliberated upon key principles of social campaigns in mass media that should not only raise awareness on these or that problem, but also influence related attitudes and behavior.
According to UNAIDS estimates, Eastern Europe and Central Asia accounted for 25,000 new HIV infections in the age group 15-24 in 2016. Children and adolescents living with HIV often confront grave violations of their essential rights, such as the right to education and the right of access to healthcare. Psychological pressure, negative attitudes and stigma, isolation and insults from peers, sometimes even threats of expulsion from school or explicit suggestions to change schools – these are only a few forms of discrimination that may take place in educational settings. Because of the fear of discrimination many people are, in turn, reluctant to seek help, disclose their HIV status and receive necessary treatment, care and support.
Driven by the values and principles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enshrined in the UNESCO Convention against discrimination in education (1960), UNESCO calls on all members of international community not only to proscribe any form of discrimination in education but also to promote equality of opportunity and treatment for all in education. “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; it shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship…” (art.5 p.1 of the Convention)
During the talk show UNESCO experts reiterated the idea that discrimination in educational settings is intolerable per se. At the same time, in a “healthy” education system that is free from violence and stigma the environment is conducive not only to improved learning but also to promotion of a culture of peace among all students – in other words, the climate of solidarity, support and personal involvement. “In order to achieve the goal ‘zero discrimination’ in educational settings, education sector employees must take a clear stand ‘zero tolerance to all forms of discrimination, violence and bullying’ and convey this message to all students, – says Tigran Yepoyan, UNESCO regional advisor for health education. – To address prejudices and discrimination, it is crucial that both parents and schools nurture in children such qualities as open-mindedness, tolerance and respect to people regardless of their social status, origins, nationality, health condition or any other characteristics”.
One of the main objectives UNESCO strives to attain is to create healthy and inclusive learning environments for all members of the school community. Therefore, IITE UNESCO is providing information and policy guidance and support to boost EECA education sector capacity to prevent discrimination and violence and respond to it. In order to provide education managers, school administrators and teachers with practical solutions and recommendations on violence prevention and elimination of discrimination against students and staff of educational establishments that are living with HIV or affected by HIV, IITE UNESCO has developed the following guides and manuals:
- Regional Guide on violence prevention in educational settings in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (available in Russian),
- Guide for education managers, school administrators and teachers in Russia
- Guide for schools in the Republic of Moldova.
*For information: The UNAIDS #YouAreNotAlone campaign is raising awareness about the stigma and discrimination faced by children, adolescents and families affected by HIV in eastern Europe and central Asia. The campaign features young Russian artists who each retell the personal story of an adolescent living with HIV in the Russian Federation.