Peace Corps Recognized for HIV/AIDS Prevention Manual

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 6, 2003 – In areas like southern Africa, where HIV prevalence rates often loom near a third of the population, volunteers are eager to change perceptions and lifestyles. Yet, standing in a hot room, trying to lecture in a language that is not one’s own is often not the best approach.

Because of scenarios like this, Peace Corps volunteers and staff created the Life Skills Manual, a hands-on guide to working in HIV/AIDS prevention. This innovative approach to HIV/AIDS education has earned the Peace Corps the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) “Best Practices” recognition.

UNESCO and their International Bureau of Education (IBE) recognized the Peace Corps for its continuing approach to teaching youth and other vulnerable groups through communication and decision-making skills that will help them avoid contracting HIV. The Peace Corps’ Life Skills Manual is one of nine educational tools that met the organization’s criteria and is included in the International Clearinghouse on Curriculum for HIV/AIDS Education, their curriculum data bank. This data bank is designed to help teachers, education specialists and researchers design curriculum, and teach the prevention and mitigation of HIV/AIDS.

The Life Skills Manual has been translated into Kiswahili, French, Russian, and Spanish and its content has been modified for other cultures. It consists of more than 50 different lesson ideas, including HIV/AIDS training sessions that are particularly useful in working with youth and other vulnerable groups. These activities address issues like self-esteem, communication, and decision-making skills. They use diagrams, brainstorming, and participatory exercises to drive home their message.

The Life Skills Manual describes a comprehensive behavior change approach that concentrates on developing the skills needed for life, such as communication and critical thinking. It also conveys the importance of assertiveness, self-esteem, resisting peer pressure and creating healthy relationships. The manual also references cultural differences and the importance of addressing these differences when approaching HIV/AIDS topics.

Currently, there are more than 2,300 Peace Corps volunteers working in more than 55 posts around the world on HIV/AIDS projects and programs. A key element of their programs and projects is using the Life Skills Manual.

Since 1961, more than 170,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and awareness, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

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