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Education slowing AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa
Date:3/22/2009

Increased schooling across sub-Saharan Africa may be lowering new HIV infections among younger adults, according to sociologists, suggesting a shift in a decades-long trend where formal education is considered an AIDS risk factor.

While education in general has a positive impact on global public health, when it comes to HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, education has had a completely opposite effect.

During the early stages of the HIV pandemic in the region, the disease passed unnoticed amidst the onslaught of other infections. When scientists took a closer look at the deadly new disease, they found that more often males with a higher than average education were contracting the disease.

"Before the 1990s, in the impoverished regions of sub-Saharan Africa, even modest amounts of education afforded males higher income, more leisure time, and, for some males, greater access to commercial sex workers," explained David Baker, professor of education and sociology at Penn State and lead author of the study. "HIV-infected higher-status males then spread the infection to both educated and uneducated women, which moved the disease into the general population."

Baker and his Penn State colleagues John Collins and Juan Leon, both graduate students, believe that information about AIDS that was already percolating in wealthier countries did not get to sub-Saharan Africa until the mid 1990s. AIDS was seen as a homosexual, urban disease and either neglect or active misinformation campaigns in some African countries ensured that the preventative effects of education never took root. But among younger people in the region, formal education is emerging as a major preventative factor against new infections. They report their findings in the current issue of the UNESCO journal Prospects.

"There needs to be a very clear message, both to the donor community and to governments in sub-Saharan Africa, that expanding quality primary schools has to be a t
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Contact: Amitabh Avasthi
axa47@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert

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