1 out of 3 senior high school students across the country now knows. The “HIV Prevention Program for Senior High School Students” reached to over 600 schools (36% of all High Schools) in Greece during the school year 2017 -2018. More than 65.000 high school students across the country were informed by the Centre for Life about HIV and AIDS through 1.274 lectures organized by teams of specially trained and experienced speakers.
The Centre for Life’s “HIV Prevention Program for Senior High School Students” was made possible thanks to the fundamental donation made by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
The need for information on the issue of HIV and AIDS has been highlighted by the majority of the education teaching staff, who considers that it is now more than ever necessary to integrate sex education topics into the school curriculum.
The lack of education adds to the already scarce and fragmented research data on the sexual behaviour of adolescents in Greece, which state that a significant proportion of students up to 15 years of age, about 25% of that age, have already started their sexual life (HBSC / WHO 2014) and that an equally important percentage of sexually active adolescents, about 20%, does not systematically use a condom or they resort to unreliable precautions (50% according to a 2007 study of the Adolescent Health Unit of the B’ Pediatric Clinic of the University of Athens).
The student audience also showed the same elevated interest in the topic of HIV / AIDS and safe sexual behaviour, while it was remarkable that the Centre for Life’s speakers were called upon to answer multiple questions. In many cases a remarkable lack of knowledge was made apparent, even in relation to fundamental issues of sexual health and precaution; this knowledge gap was addressed during the seminars.
The Centre for Life gave emphasis on implementing the program in high schools located outside large urban centers, such as in remote areas of the mainland and islands. For example, lectures were carried out in schools in outermost regions such as Dikaia (northern end of Orestiada), Soufli (Evros), Kato Nevrokopi, Samothraki, Konitsa, Agnanta and Pramanta (on Pindos mountain), Halki, Kalavryta, Kastorio (on mountain of Taygetos), Makrygialos (Ierapetra, Crete) and in many others. More specifically:
- 86% of Senior High Schools in the Evros regional unit (18 out of 21 Schools)
- 59% of Senior High Schools in the Kozani regional unit (13 out of Schools)
- 56% of Senior High Schools in the Florina regional unit (5 out of 9 Schools)
- 78% of Senior High Schools in the Thesprotia regional unit (7 out of 9 Schools)
- 72% of Senior High Schools in theIoannina regional unit (23 out of 32 Schools)
- 86% of Senior High Schools in the Zakynthos regional unit (6 out of 7 Schools)
- 90% of Senior High Schools at in the Kefallonia & Ithaki regional units (9 out of 10 Schools)
- 71% of Senior Hugh Schools in the Karditsa regional unit (12 out of 17 Schools)
- 87% of Senior High Schoolsin the Argolida regional unit (13 out of 15 Schools)
- 57% of Senior High Schools in the Lasithi regional unit (8 out of 14 Schools)
It is worth mentioning that the respective results of the program will be presented by the Centre for Life at the 22nd International AIDS Conference, which will be held in Amsterdam from 23-27 July 2018. It is the first time that a respective Greek program is being presented in such an important circumstance, a fact that demonstrates the international interest for relative educational practices.
The Centre for Life had been granted by the Ministry of Education a nationwide license for educating senior high school students about HIV infection and AIDS, while scientific editing of printed and digital teaching materials were made by the National School of Public Health, and approval had been secured by the Institute for Educational Policy. Finally, Centre for Life’s directors who undertook to implement the program, had received further training from staff of the Office for Health Education and Public Awareness of the Hellenic Center for Disease Control & Prevention (HCDCP).
Despite the rapid evolution of scientific understanding and tackling of HIV / AIDS, there hasn’t been a corresponding degree of change in knowledge and attitudes of the Greek society, a large part of which remains attached to outdated conceptions, both regarding the methods of transmission as well as for the population groups affected by the HIV. Because of this mismatch, a substantial part of the population, especially the student and youth population does not know why they should and how to take precautions during sexual activity. According to the recent epidemiological data from HCDCP, a steady growth of HIV transmissions is observed and in particular, in the last five years (2013-2017), 3.721 people have been diagnosed with HIV. 10% of new diagnoses, during the last five years, are among young people between 15-24 years old, while 25% are among young people between 15-29 years old.
The Centre for Life, driven by 27-years of experience and ethical principles cultivated over the years, leveraging from the long training of the staff and the excellent cooperation with other relevant bodies, seeks to continue the conduction of the interactive informative sessions in the 13 regional units in Greece, in order to make knowledge the means of protection and elimination of stigma towards people living with HIV / AIDS.