Educating children can help slow the spread of
HIV/AIDS in Africa
Accra, April 28, Ghanadot
- Universal primary education could save at least 7 million young people
worldwide from contracting HIV over a decade (700,000 cases a year),
according to a recent report from the Global Campaign for Education.
About 36 percent of young
adults in low-income countries never completed primary school, but they
account for an estimated 55 percent of new HIV cases among young people.
Education can serve as a
“social vaccine” against HIV, especially for school-age children and young
A review published in
2003 in Social Science and Medicine on 11 studies of school-based HIV
prevention programs for youth in Sub-Saharan Africa found that it is easier
to establish low-risk behavours and build knowledge around prevention among
younger students who are not yet sexually active. Reaching children when
they are young is thus very important.
Given that the HIV
infection rate in many developing countries is growing fastest among teenage
girls, educating girls may be critical to breaking the pattern.
Girls who attend school
are far more likely to understand the risks involved in risky behavour, to
reject the myths associated with sex, and in the case of good school
programs know how to use effective refusal tactics in difficult sexual
Schools provide a
ready-made infrastructure for reaching the world’s children with education
to change behavour before they become infected. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS is
also undermining education systems and pulling children, especially girls,
out of school.
In Zimbabwe , for
example, a UNESCO study of five provinces found that more than three-fourths
of the children pulled out of school to care for relatives with AIDS are
In these circumstances,
it is critical to simultaneously attack HIV/AIDS and work to preserve and
improve the school system, incorporating education on HIV/AIDS as a critical
part of teaching.