New York Times Examines How HIV/AIDS Pandemic Contributes to Earlier Sexual Activity, Less Education for African Girls
The New York Times on Friday examined how the HIV/AIDS pandemic has contributed to earlier sexual activity and less education for many African girls, especially AIDS orphans. Poverty, pregnancy at a young age and a lack of education have been problems for young women in Africa for a long time, but over the past 25 years the trends have begun improving as more African girls have received formal schooling and married later in life. However, the HIV/AIDS pandemic "threatens to take away those hard-won gains," especially among female AIDS orphans who "are being propelled into sex at shockingly early ages to support themselves, their siblings and, all too often, their own children," according to the Times. About 12 million children in sub-Saharan Africa have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS-related causes, and orphaned girls are at an increased risk of sexual exploitation because of their lower status in society and are more likely than boys to contract HIV for anatomical reasons, according to relief officials. In addition, orphaned girls in Zimbabwe are three times as likely as girls whose parents are living to contract HIV, according to a recent UNICEF study. In Zambia, orphaned girls often are the first to be taken out of schools, the Times reports. "AIDS is reversing the trends that were improving for girls," Margie de Monchy, a UNICEF regional child protection officer, said, adding, "We really have to look at the kinds of lousy choices -- and sometimes no choices -- that they have for survival" (LaFraniere, New York Times, 6/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.