Formal Education Helping To Address HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, Researchers Say
Formal education is helping to curb the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa after having opposite effects during the early stages of the pandemic, according to a study by researchers from Pennsylvania State University and published recently in the UNESCO journal Prospects, UPI/RedOrbit reports. During the early stages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, researchers found that men with higher levels of education were more likely to contract the disease (UPI/RedOrbit, 3/23). According to the researchers, moderate education provided young men with more leisure time and increased access to commercial sex workers (InTheNews.co.uk, 3/23). Lead author David Baker said that HIV-positive, "higher-status males then spread the infection to both educated and uneducated women, which moved the disease into the general population" (UPI/RedOrbit, 3/23).
According to Baker and graduate students John Collins and Juan Leon, "misperceptions about the urban and homosexual concentrations of the disease have been met by education campaigns." They examined HIV cases in 11 sub-Saharan African countries and found a link between lower rates of the virus among people who reached sexual maturity after education improved (InTheNews.co.uk, 3/23). The researchers found that some level of education reduced the risk of HIV in young people ages 15 to 24 by up to 34% in Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi and Senegal (UPI/RedOrbit, 3/23).
"More educated people have the cognitive tools to make better sense out of facts presented to them," Baker said, adding, "We have shown that when there is sufficient information, and no misinformation, people with education adopt healthy strategies to avoid infections." Collins said that donors and governments in the region should be aware of the importance of expanding access to primary education. "It will not only have economic benefits but also health benefits," he said (InTheNews.co.uk, 3/23).