Thursday, November 18, 2010


Girls' Education, Sexual Behaviour and AIDS in Africa

Strong Foundations for HIV Protection and Prevention
Girls educated to secondary and tertiary levels are more likely to wait before having sex, are much more likely to use condoms when they do have sex, and are therefore at much less risk of contracting HIV

One of the latest trends in the development of Aids in Africa is its increasing feminization. In Africa, Over 7.5 million young people aged 15-24 are living with HIV & AIDS, and 70% of those are young women and girls. In recent research on girls’ education, sexual behavior and HIV, shows that secondary education provides African girls with the power to make sexual choices that prevent HIV infection. The research shows that uneducated girls were more vulnerable to Aids. As sex education improves and a greater understanding of HIV prevention develops, more educated girls became less likely to contract HIV.

Education gives girls power, reduces vulnerability and helps them make more independent, confident choices about their sexual behavior. Schools, teachers, are the most trusted source for young people to learn about HIV, and that school attendance ensures greater understanding of prevention messages. It also strengthens girls’ control, confidence and negotiating abilities to decide if to have sex, and when they do, whether to use a condom or not. Peer groups within schools strengthen girls’ social networks and create more responsible attitudes to sexual behavior, safer sex and HIV.

Girls who drop out of school are more likely to enter into adult sexual networks, where older partners with more experience and power dictate the “rules” of sexual engagement. Poverty and vulnerability to HIV are closely linked. More educated women have better economic and social prospects and consequently have more choices. Despite the role of education in protecting girls from HIV infection, more children worldwide do not receive an education. In most African countries, more than 10 million girls have never been to primary school and some children still have to pay school fees to go to school.

At Wellspring Women's Network, we urge all countries in Africa to broaden the curriculum to include sex education, encouraging teenage mothers back into education and those Primary schools should be free to achieve maximum access to education.

"Young women receiving higher levels of education are likely to wait longer before having sex for the first time, and are less likely to be coerced into sex. Strikingly, girls with more education are far more likely to use condoms and they are less likely to contract HIV."