To find what has happened recently to the link between formal education and HIV infections, the researchers analyzed data from surveys previously undertaken in 11 countries across the region between 2003 and 2005. They specifically looked at males ages 15 to 24, 25 to 34, and older than 35.
Survey participants were tested for HIV infection and interviewed about their education, social status, and sexual behavior.
The researchers argued that because the youngest members of the oldest group -- the 35 and older -- became sexually mature in the late 1980s, when there was little or no information about AIDS, higher education would show as a risk factor instead of a social vaccine.
Statistical analyses of the data suggest that in all 11 countries formal education had no effect on HIV infections in the oldest group, probably because many older adults, educated and uneducated have already been exposed to the virus and many have died. However, having some schooling did reduce the risk of HIV infections in the youngest group by up to 34 percent in Guinea, Malawi, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, and Kenya.
"At 24 years, the oldest member of this young group reached sexual maturity in the mid 1990s, when there was already widespread knowledge that HIV and AIDS could be contracted through unprotected sex and intravenous drug use," explained Baker.
The researchers hypothesize that, reasoning skills gained in school by younger adults play a preventative role against HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
"More educated people have the cognitive tools to make better sense out of facts presented to them," explained Baker. "We have shown that when there is sufficient information, and no misinformation, people with education adopt healthy strategies to avoid infections."
The Penn State researchers caution that while a large numbe
|Contact: Amitabh Avasthi|