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HIV Education Campaign in Beijing's Schools

Eighty per cent of the middle schools in Beijing were offering HIV-prevention courses by the end of last month, up from none early last year, sources at the Beijing Municipal Education Committee said yesterday.

To assist in the teaching of these courses, the committee earlier drafted the country's first textbook aimed at preventing HIV, the AIDS Prevention Textbook for Middle and Elementary School Students. Teachers have been using the book since the start of the autumn semester. Six class hours on the subject are required every semester in junior high school, and four hours in senior high schools.

The Ministry of Education made the classes mandatory in February. The textbook covers such issues as abstinence, condom-use and how to deal with relationships over the Internet. The textbook provides detailed information about HIV/AIDS, such as how to avoid contracting HIV, and encourages students not to be prejudiced against people who have been infected by the disease. It also offers advice on how to lead a healthy sex life.

The topic of sex is often too embarrassing for Chinese students to bring up with teachers because it is taboo in traditional Chinese culture. Teachers often skip the few chapters dealing with sex in their health textbooks or tell students to study by themselves.

School representatives contacted by China Daily said they were using the books.

"We have purchased textbooks for the students and designated teachers to lecture both junior and senior students to meet the committee's requirements," said a female teacher surnamed Hu who works for the teaching affairs department of Beijing Yuying Middle School, adding that she did not know how the classes were going or whether any teachers had attempted to avoid the subject.

At the high school affiliated to Beijing Normal University, only some school officials were given the new textbooks.

"To reduce students' tuition burden, we purchased only a few books for our principal and the appointed teachers, but not the students," Zhang Li, a teacher at the teaching affairs department, said. "But the classes have started as per the authorities' instructions."

Li Bian, deputy director of the AIDS-Prevention Education Project for Chinese Youths, an organization co-sponsored by the China Charity Federation and the Chinese Society of Education, highlighted the importance of offering HIV/AIDS education to both middle and elementary school students.

"The country has waited for so long," Li told China Daily. "AIDS-prevention education is so urgent in this country, since young people's knowledge of sex lags behind their physical growth."

"But the effort is still not making much progress, even though China has stressed developing a high-quality educational system for years," Li said. "It is all because the current education and testing systems don't include this course in any appraisals."

(China Daily December 20, 2006)

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