UK allots cash to fight Aids epidemic

August 10, 2001

The British government has given the Association of Commonwealth Universities £100,000 to help combat the effects of Aids and HIV on higher education in the Commonwealth.

Although the Commonwealth makes up less than 30 per cent of the world's population, it has more than 60 per cent of the global total of HIV/Aids cases, including more than 14 million cases in sub-Saharan Africa.

Universities in these countries have been particularly badly hit by the epidemic, since the age group most likely to be studying or working in higher education is also the group most at risk of contracting HIV.

The ACU initiated its HIV/Aids project in 1999 when the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Durban officially recognised the vast scale of the threat posed by the Aids pandemic.

The project aims to spread best practice of dealing with and minimising the impact of Aids throughout the Commonwealth.

Dorothy Garland, deputy secretary general of the ACU, said: "Although some Commonwealth universities are very conscious of the impact Aids is having on their finances, as well as the numbers of students and staff getting sick and dying, other universities have not taken on board what the impact will be.

"There is an enormous amount that the universities can and should be doing to combat Aids. They are in a wonderful position to train a body of graduates that will be HIV literate."

But many higher education institutions in countries hardest hit by the epidemic do not even have an Aids policy.

In a report to be published this week, the ACU blames "silence, stigma, denial and discrimination", a lack of knowledge about the pandemic and a reluctance to face up to the threat that Aids represents.

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