HARGEISA, 17 April 2010 (Somalilandpress) – A new programme is targeting about 800 primary and junior high school students in northwestern Somalia’s self-declared republic of Somaliland with HIV/AIDS messages for the first time.

“The children’s ages range from seven to 19. Of course, most of them are not sexually active now – we targeted them for several reasons … every student comes from a family and he will pass the message to his family. Also, they are the next generation at high risk of HIV,” said Mohamoud Hassan Abdillahi, executive director of Somaliland Health and Social Care Organization (SOHASCO).

The messages, which SOHASCO hopes will eventually raise awareness in thousands of people, included information on how HIV is transmitted and how to prevent infection, as well as the extent of the epidemic in Somaliland; an estimated 1.4 percent of people are infected.

“I was only aware of sexual intercourse transmission of the disease, but now I know three ways that HIV/AIDS is transmitted – illegal sexual intercourse, giving blood to someone without checking, as well as using sharp elements such as the knives, used in traditional operations,” said Abdirasak Hussein Hashi, 19, of Sheikh Bashir primary/intermediate school.

HIV advocates have praised the campaign but many local people are less pleased that their children are being introduced to sexual matters at such a young age.

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“I don’t like students to be taught about HIV/AIDS; when they reach the mature age, they have to be instructed in Islam [so as] not to do the behaviours of high risk, such as adultery,” said Ali Jama Abdi, father of a child. “In our religion it is not allowed for children to be taught what is considered as shameful.”

According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), policies to reduce the vulnerability of children and young people to HIV cannot be implemented without the full cooperation of the education sector.

Although some of SOHASCO’s messages could be perceived as stigmatising people living with HIV by their use of terms like “illegal sex”, “immorality” and “adultery” to describe how HIV is transmitted, this is the only acceptable way of passing on such information in conservative, Muslim Somaliland. Messages intended to reduce stigma were also included.

“Our slogans were carrying messages like, ‘Stop HIV/AIDS’, ‘HIV/AIDS is very dangerous to every human being, including whites, blacks and Muslims’, ‘Abstinence is the best way of avoiding HIV/AIDS’ and ‘Together we can stop HIV/AIDS’,” Abdillahi said.

SOHASCO said teachers also experienced difficulties. “The teachers know about HIV/AIDS, but their problem is that they do not have the materials, and the subject is not in the syllabus,” said Hassan Jama Abdillahi, principal of Gacma-Dheere School. “It [HIV education] is a crucial step that obliges us to protect our youth from the dangers of this disease.”

According to the Somaliland National AIDS Commission, an HIV education syllabus is being drafted and will be included in school curriculums by the end of 2010.

Source: IRIN


  1. if we do not educate our youngsters about this disease then i am afraid we will be heading to a danger, that can't be reversed. As we know, Prevention is better than curing. so why not educate people about this disease. Otherwise we will be like keynya and ethiopia, and our people will die. AQOON LA'AANI WAA INFIIN LA'AAN.

  2. Layla
    I believe we have to teach our young people awareness of this illness. Education is only tool to fight health issues. Also its little bit weird to me using victim blaming terminologies, such immorality, illegal sex and so on. Remember we may be Muslim and there are codes of rule we have to follow, however everybody does not do that and it much better instead saying to the people do not do it, which is not going to work as some of them will do it anyway. Telling them to use prevention method if you are doing it is simple message to give someone.

  3. ABSINENCE is the best prevention strategy. Manshallah, our religion, the path allah has laid out for us, has protected us from many of these ills. However sex workers need to stopped, policed, punished – it is haram, immoral, dangerous and just down right disgusting. All these ethiopians who live in Somalia and Somaliland are bring their filthy diseases, including HIV. They need to be discouraged from even entering the borders of Somalia.

  4. I am glad to hear that an organization like SOHASCO exists in Somaliland, because people especially children need to know about HIV/AIDS and
    it must be taught in schools.

    But I would go one step further, by having some adult education, too.
    How many parents are at ease and comfortable to discuss these things
    with their children, or would even listen to them when they come back
    from school, the attempt would prove to be fruitless, if the parents
    themselves are shy or ashamed of discussing the subject. How would
    they respond to questions raised by the kids?

    Mind you, even, in homes of some Western-oriented families, parents find
    it difficult to explain or talk about the real stuff, with their teenage kids.
    Children are only apt to discuss it only with classmates or age-group

    Yes, the age of seven is a bit too young to understand grown-up stuff,
    especially if they are not doing biology, as yet, but then again evil does
    strike in so many different ways and we have to protect the young!!!

    Also SOHASCO could ease the tension for those who are unfortunately
    sick because they could be stigmatised, those people really need all the
    understanding they can get from their loved ones and not be banished, for
    bringing shame on the family. They could show videos from other countries, (Muslim), showing how other families are coping with their sick relatives.