Sex Between Teachers and Students Spreads HIV in Central African Republic
Teacher-student sex is a major route for HIV transmission in the Central African Republic, where AIDS is the leading cause of death among educators and a girl's first sexual partner is often her teacher, according to UNICEF, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "The very people upon whom we rely to teach pupils how to protect themselves against AIDS are often the ones passing on the virus," Adjibad Karimou of the UNICEF office in Bangui said. But Francoise Nboma, head of the English department at a CAR high school, explained, "Girls often come to school without eating and without proper clothing. They see their teacher as someone to help them. Many parents want their daughters to marry teachers, so they encourage their children to have relationships with them, and the staff don't refuse." In CAR high schools and universities, some girls will trade sex for grades in order to secure a diploma.
Teachers say they want to see teacher-student sex end but add that "the practice is ingrained in the educational system." The government also would be "hard-pressed to dismiss teachers or professors" found to be sexually involved with students because of a "severe staffing shortage" as the result of poor pay and AIDS, the Chronicle reports. A UNICEF study found that 85% of teacher deaths in the CAR were AIDS-related and projected that 25% to 50% of all teachers in the country will die of AIDS-related illnesses by 2005. From 1996 to 1998, 107 schools were forced to close because too many teachers had died. Now, with half of the country's teaching posts empty, only 60% of children nationwide are receiving an education.
Safe Sex Education for Teachers, Students
Safe sex programs are uncommon in CAR high schools because the Health Ministry has focused its "meager" $7 million AIDS budget on treating HIV-positive workers and pregnant women rather than offering education campaigns. Yet female teachers are "increasingly warning the girls against having sexual relations with their teachers," Nboma said, adding, "We're even telling male teachers that they need to regard the girls as their own children, not simply as pupils." In addition, Population Services International will begin distributing three million condoms at discounted prices throughout the CAR this week, with health workers visiting schools to teach safe sex "to teachers as well as pupils" (Jones, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/6).