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'31 pc Indian students have comprehensive knowledge on AIDS'

Only a third of India's youth acquainted with adult education programmes have comprehensive knowledge about HIV transmission and prevention while an equal proportion of teachers need to improve their awareness on these issues, a UN study has found.

The survey conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) stated that only 31 per cent students from schools with adult education programmes (AEP) and 20 per cent non-AEP had comprehensive knowledge about HIV and AIDS.

The students could identify all modes of transmission of HIV, an executive summary of the report 'Concurrent Evaluation of The Adolescence Education Programme 2010-11' said.

A third of teachers of both types of schools do not have comprehensive knowledge of mode of transmission of HIV virus and pregnancy-related issues and experts pointed out the need "to improve the transaction of knowledge on the issue".

"Knowledge on methods that can prevent both HIV and pregnancy (male and female condoms) is low among students. There is a lot of scope of improvement in knowledge levels among students in these issues...

"They need to learn more, including the importance of consent driven voluntary HIV testing protocol, right to confidentiality and related issues," the report said.

On domestic issues, the report noted, "It is worrisome that a considerable proportion of teachers justify wife- beating while 43 per cent of students said wife-beating can be justified by certain circumstances."

"Unless it (adolescence education) reaches the student, the programme mission is not achieved," Independent consultant Rekha Masilamani said.

The evaluation report was made in the backdrop of which adolescence education was recognised as an important subject in school education by the National Curriculum Framework way back in 2005.

Adolescent boys and girls in the age group of 14-18 constituting of 19,666 AEP-exposed students and 2,301 non-AEP students, 1,000 teachers and 200 school principals were drawn from 200 schools in five different states across India for this exercise.

"The report highlighted the need for policy decisions related to the age of initiation of AEP, mechanisms for assessment and whether it should continue in the co-curricular realm or gradually be integrated in the curriculum," UNFPA representative F Meijer said.

The Union Ministry of Human Resources and Development admitted that the findings are "timely" and they could provide evidence to universalise AEP in XII five year plan in the SSA, RMSA and Saaskar Bharat.

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