Education could save millions of youth from HIV/AIDS - report

AFRICA: Education could save millions of youth from HIV/AIDS - report

JOHANNESBURG, 28 Apr 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - Efforts by the World Bank to support education could "prove critical in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS", the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), a coalition of independent civil society organisations has said.

In a report released during the recent meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, the GCE estimated that if all children worldwide received a complete primary education, seven million cases of HIV infection could be prevented over the next 10 years.

The report, "Learning to Survive: How Education For All Would Save Millions of Young People from HIV/AIDS", is based on new research showing that young people aged 15 to 24 who completed primary education were less than half as likely to contract HIV as those missing an education.

After examining data from the UN and the World Bank, the coalition revealed that by accelerating behaviour change, universal primary education could prevent some 700,000 cases of HIV infection each year, or about 30 percent of all new infections in this age group.

Speaking on behalf of the GCE, Max Lawson, a consultant for Oxfam, said in a statement: "We knew there was a correlation between the level of education and [HIV] prevalence rates, but we had no idea how important education was to any prevention programme."

Despite the huge impact that education could have on reducing the spread of HIV, especially among young women, shortfalls in donor aid for education meant that over 100 million children were still slipping through the education net.

The report suggests that without urgent action it would be 150 years before every child in Africa was able to attend school.

"Failure by donor countries to invest in achieving universal education now, will mean increased poverty later, and will condemn countries hard-hit by HIV/AIDS to a grim future of underdevelopment and dependence," the report warns.

Donor countries were urged to expand and properly coordinate education funding for all, beginning with full funding for the 12 low-income countries whose education plans had been endorsed through the "Education for All Fast Track Initiative", established at the April 2002 World Bank meetings.

"The Global Campaign for Education's estimate marks an important turning point in thinking about this epidemic. This is the first time that there has been a calculation of how many young people could be saved from HIV through primary education," the World Bank's leading specialist for education and HIV/AIDS, Prof Don Bundy, confirmed.

It is estimated that it would take an additional US $5.6 billion in aid - the equivalent of just three days' global military spending - to ensure that every child in developing countries could attend school.


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