U.N. Secretary-General Calls for Increased Attention to Connection Between Literacy, Health, Including HIV/AIDS
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on International Literacy Day on Monday called for increased attention to the connection between literacy and health, including HIV/AIDS issues, Xinhuanet reports. "Illiteracy has a direct impact on human health," Ban said in a statement, adding, "It prevents people from being able to read the instructions on a medicine bottle. It means that people are less likely to know facts about AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases."
Literacy also is an important component of achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals -- which include targets to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases -- Ban said. According to Ban, because two-thirds of people who are illiterate worldwide are women and girls, who "often bear the burden of caring for sick members of their families, it means that they will be less likely to know about prevention and support services and how to use lifesaving medicines and other treatments."
Ban called for policies and increased investment to literacy programs to help people improve their skills. About 774 million people worldwide cannot read or write, and about 75 million children do not have access to the education system, according to U.N. statistics. The theme of this year's International Literacy Day was "Literacy and Health" (Xinhuanet, 9/8).