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Gender Equity in HIV/AIDS Education  

Kacie Kidd

Since its initial discovery in the early 1980s, through the development of treatment and prophylaxis medications as well as continued attempts at vaccination development, HIV/AIDS has changed the narrative about infectious diseases around the world. It has led to recognition of the complexities of the intersections of sexuality, gender, race, age, culture, and socioeconomic status while simultaneously highlighting gender inequities in all aspects of the disease. These inequities present in clinical trials that include only subsets of the population, prevention strategies that are offered based on oversimplified assumptions about sexual behaviors, and limited education about risk for everyone from schoolchildren through medical professionals. Activists and public health advocates push for inclusion and transparency in research and treatment for HIV/AIDS, but education at all levels has lagged. The United Nations and the International Conference on Population Development have declared school-based sex education a goal for all countries in order to reduce the health burden of HIV/AIDS. Sex education in schools varies between and within countries, with no standardization of how to best educate youth about sex, reproductive health, or disease prevention. Despite continued challenges with curriculum incorporation and content, research suggests that key qualities of an effective educational program include the creation of a safe space for student questions, inclusion of diverse voices, and clear guidance for preventing sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS. In order to mitigate continued inequity over the next several decades and beyond, comprehensive HIV/AIDS education must emphasize the intersectionality of gender, sexuality, race, age, culture, and socioeconomic status at all levels from elementary introductions through training for medical and mental health researchers and providers.