Peer Education, not Fear Education

Published: 01 Feb, 2015

Any visitor to School No. 43 in the Armenian capital Yerevan might easily mistake Veronica Seropyan for a teacher. Yet, standing in front of thirteen pupils aged 14-16, there is something different about her class. The ubiquitous red ribbons that adorn the children’s t-shirts perhaps provide the best clue.

Seropyan is not a teacher, but a member of the AIDS Prevention, Education and Care (APEC) NGO. The organization has charged itself with the task of training 1,400 schoolchildren as peer educators by May 2005 through interactive teaching methods, discussion and games. The end goal is to educate children on a massive scale about the danger of infection from HIV / AIDS.
“We talk about the history of the disease,” says Seropyan, “how it is spread, what effect it has on the immune system, as well as the biological and psychological development of teenagers. Later, they will pass on that knowledge by talking with their friends and classmates.”
In fact, peer education has been found to be a very effective method in reaching specific target groups that might otherwise not listen to someone older or from a different social background.

And there is a reason why APEC has chosen to target this particular group. Although Armenia is considered a country with a low prevalence of HIV / AIDS, the number of those infected is growing. Last December, the United Nations warned that the republic faces a "potential disaster" if nothing is done to stop its spread.
Moreover, while only 56 of 304 officially registered cases of HIV / AIDS in Armenia were aged less than 24, surveys of young people, and especially students, indicated that although there is a high level of understanding regarding the importance of practicing safer sex, behavior can be just the opposite.

In Summer 2015, 120 of the most promising educators will attend a summer camp to expand their knowledge even further and continue APECs education initiative.

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