Viruses too are social phenomena. That may sound like a joke or a paradox, but it simply reflects the fact that relating to illness is a constitutive part of the human condition. Because the ways in which HIV/AIDS is transmitted are heavily fraught with symbolism, the pandemic underlines with special force the essential nature of epidemiology as a social science. Issue 186 of the ISSJ offers three main angles on HIV/AIDS:
- the beliefs, attitudes and behaviour that shape, promote or hinder the epidemic;
- the political, ethical and economic issues raised by prevention and treatment;
- policy responses and the necessary role within them of the human rights of people living with HIV and AIDS.
This emphasis reflects UNESCO’s distinctive combination of expertise in education, science, social sciences, culture and communication, which gives it an interdisciplinary organizational and technical capacity that is particularly suited to working on education for prevention in an effort to halt the spread of HIV and AIDS.
With all its partners, UNESCO has adopted a strong advocacy role for issues relating to HIV and AIDS, emphasizing the linkages between HIV and AIDS education and poverty eradication; overcoming the disadvantages and disparities experienced by women and girls; supporting the understanding and practice of human rights; and adapting messages to diverse cultural and traditional contexts. This work is being carried out within the context of achieving the goals and targets of the Education for All (EFA) effort and the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, adopted at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS).
The case studies in this issue cover China, Vietnam, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Angola and Albania.