Day of the African Child: Championing HIV Education Around the World

Boys and girls attend one of EGPAF’s Ariel Camps in Rwanda. Ariel Camps give adolescents living with and affected by HIV the chance to share their stories and learn about treatment and prevention.

James Pursey/Rwanda

Today, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) joins the international community to celebrate the Day of the African Child (June 16) as we support efforts to improve HIV/AIDS education for children and adolescents around the world.

On June 16, 1976, students took to the streets in Soweto, South Africa to protest against the use of Afrikaans, the primary language of the Apartheid government, within school systems.

Within hours, a peaceful protest for equality and better education standards turned violent as government-backed police officers began using tear gas, and then live ammunition to disperse the students. Hector Pieterson, then only 12-years-old, was one of the first students killed in the uprising.

His death sparked protests throughout the township and marked the beginning of the end of the apartheid regime. June 16 became National Youth Day in South Africa, and in 1991 the African Union christened it the Day of the African Child, a day set aside to not only commemorate the Soweto uprising, but also to demand better education for all African children.

Increasing the availability and visibility of HIV/AIDS education and prevention services could dramatically reduce the number of new infections among teenagers. According to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV/AIDS is now the second leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa.

That’s why EGPAF supports programs such as our Ariel Camps and Ariel Clubs, which give adolescents living with and affected by HIV the opportunity to share their stories and learn valuable lessons about HIV treatment and prevention.

And in Swaziland, EGPAF partners with the Ministry of Health to host district-wide school debates about HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment. The debates have proven to be an invaluable tool, creating a safe space for students to openly discuss safe sex practices and encouraging them to take ownership of their own health.

These programs, and other education outreach efforts tailored toward teenagers, help combat the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV, and together we can move one step closer to a day when no child has AIDS.

Read more about EGPAF’s education and outreach programs for teenagers.