Education and tourism

One of the objectives of Priority Area 2 of the current Caribbean Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS (CRSF 2008-2012) is to ‘scale up the HIV response in tourism and any other sector the country considers important’. Also included in the list of objectives is one that speaks to promoting and protecting the health of students and staff, and to mitigate the impact of HIV on the education system.

A review of available related literature demonstrates that there is an important link between the Caribbean HIV epidemic and tourism indicating that tourism increases the potential for the spread of HIV in the region. The link between education and HIV is even more obvious, when unemployment, underemployment and poverty are factored in.

Regarding tourism, the Caribbean has become a popular destination for sex tourists, and several countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, have reported that sex tourism is linked to rising infection rates in certain areas. This increase is attributable to the sexual behaviours of both visitors and nationals alike, as tourists develop relationships with nationals e.g. those working in hotels and other tourism services including sex workers.

Several national and regional initiatives in both areas have been implemented over the last decade including the development of toolkits, guidelines and other policy documents, led by the PANCAP Project Coordinating Unit. PANCAP Partners such as the Caribbean AIDS Alliance (CHAA) have been instrumental in the development of regional models e.g. HIV/AIDS Responsible Tourism Model. This model provides guidance to countries on the development and implementation of tourism interventions which encompasses HIV and AIDS prevention initiatives

In terms of the education sector, in June 2006, the CARICOM Council on Human and Social Development (COHSOD), the Caribbean Ministers of Education and representatives of National AIDS Programmes recommended that Ministries of Education appoint a focal point for School Health activities and for the creation of a regional mechanism for sharing school health information with a focus on HIV. This move led to the development of the Caribbean Education Sector HIV and AIDS Coordinator Network (EduCan). EduCan was tasked with strengthening the role of the education sector in HIV prevention across the region. Several policies including support for school health nutrition and HIV responses and safe and supportive school environments resulted from this initiative.

As the characteristics of the global HIV epidemic change and external funding for local efforts decrease across the board; existing programmes in these vital sectors must become more creative and innovative if we are to sustain an effective multisectoral response in the Region.

For more information visit:

www.schoolsandhealth.org

www.caribbeanaidsalliance.org

www.unesco.org