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Educating The World's Poorest Children Could Reduce HIV Infections

There’s a warning Wednesday that a lack of education among the world’s poorest children could double their risk of contracting HIV, the AIDS virus. That warning comes from ActionAid International and the Imperial College London. They’re sponsoring a conference on the issue prior to a UNAIDS meeting in London, which starts Thursday. They say if all children went to school, at least 700 thousand new HIV infections could be prevented each year. Leslie Drake is with Imperial College’s Partnership for Child Development. From London, she spoke to English to Africa’s Joe De Capua about AIDS and education. She says, “There’s a firm evidence base that education in itself protects children from HIV. So that’s not looking at HIV/AIDS prevention education. It’s looking solely at keeping kids in school. The reason that that is important is because it one gives children more power and skills to actually avoid infection, but also delivers an education that can increase the knowledge, the skills, the attitudes…which would avoid risky behavior which leads to HIV. If you look at the population as a whole, the school age children have the lowest rate of infection. So it’s very, very low prevalence in school age kids even in epicenters of HIV/AIDS. For example, KwaZulu-Natal (Province in South Africa), even there you have less than one percent of the children, school age children, with HIV.” One of main obstacles to poor children getting an education is school fees, as well as the cost of books, uniforms and certain levies. The Partnership for Child Development, ActionAid and others are pushing for the abolishment of such school fees for poor children worldwide as part of the Millennium Development Goals.

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