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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


New report reveals: Education could save seven million young people from HIV

23 April 2004

Seven million cases of HIV could be prevented in a decade if all children in the world received a complete primary education, reveals a ground-breaking new report released today by the Global Campaign for Education.

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 (15-24 years) who have completed primary education are less than half as likely to contract HIV as those missing an education. It reveals that, by accelerating behavior change, universal primary education would prevent 700,000 cases of HIV each year, about 30 percent of all new infections in this age group.


Yet despite the huge impact that education could have in fighting the onslaught of HIV, especially among young women, shortfalls in donor aid for education mean that over 100 million children are still missing school. Without urgent action it will be 150 years until every child in Africa is 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 AIDS to a grim future of underdevelopment and dependence," states the report.

According to Professor Don Bundy, former head of Oxford University’s Scientific Co-ordinating Center for the Partnership for Child Development and now the World Bank’s Lead Specialist for Education and HIV/AIDS, "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."

"Whilst the number is shocking, and whilst we must of course be cautious about any projection, the estimation methods used by the Global Campaign for Education are scientific and robust, and the figure may well be conservative," Bundy said. "It demonstrates the need to make the ‘social vaccine’ of education available universally."

It would take an additional $5.6 billion in aid to ensure that every child could go to school, which is the equivalent of just three days global military spending.

The report calls upon donor countries meeting this week at the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC to expand and properly coordinate funding
education for all, beginning with fully funding the twelve low income countries whose education plans have been endorsed through the Education for All Fast Track Initiative.*

A clear example of donor country failure is in Niger, where HIV/AIDS rates are increasing and education is crucial in halting the spread of the disease. UN figures show that whilst only 13% of uneducated men used a condom with their most recent casual partner, 30% of men with some primary education did, and 64% of men with some secondary education did.

Yet in a country where 1.3 million children remain out of school, HIV/AIDS prevention is seriously hampered. The government of Niger realizes the importance of primary education and has increased the enrolment rate from 34% to 42% in just 5 years. It developed a comprehensive education plan that was approved by donors under the Fast Track Initiative, yet donors simply have failed to come up with the money, and a $32 million dollar shortfall remains.


Among Learning to Survive’s key findings:

  • Education is just one part of the comprehensive multi-sectoral strategy
    needed to address the HIV/AIDS crisis, and must be implemented alongside expanded treatment, care and support for those infected and prevention.
  • Universal Primary Education (UPE) would reduce the number of new HIV
    infections among young people by 700,000 annually through accelerating
    behavior change. It states that education leads to increased ability to
    evaluate, understand and apply facts; gains in confidence; greater decision-making power in relationships and creates the context in which HIV
    preventative messages can best be understood and acted upon. In addition, at school many children learn about AIDS and reproductive health through targeted prevention and life skills.
  • Education is especially empowering for girls and young women, which is
    key to its efficacy against HIV/AIDS, a disease which thrives on the social
    and economic vulnerability of young women.
  • Literate women are three times more likely than illiterate women to know
    that a healthy-looking person can have HIV, and four times more likely to
    know the main ways to avoid AIDS, according to a 32-country study.
  • In Kenya, 17-year-old-girls still in school were almost 4 times more
    likely to have delayed sexual activity than those who were out of school
  • Recent household surveys in 11 countries show that women with some
    schooling were nearly five times as likely as uneducated women to have used a condom the last time they had sex.
  • Globally, about one third of those currently living with HIV/AIDS are
    aged 15-24 and the majority of new infections occur among young adults.
  • In Uganda, HIV prevalence rates were cut from 15% in 1990 to 5% in 2000.
    Free primary education, which doubled enrolments when it was introduced
    mid-decade, played an essential role in this change process- the government estimates that some 10 million young people now receive AIDS education in the classroom. A massive change in sexual behavior has resulted. In one school district in 1994, more than 60 per cent of students 13 to 16 years old reported that they were already sexually active. In 2001, the figure was fewer than 5 per cent.

*What is the Fast Track Initiative?
Two years ago, in April 2002, donors at the World Bank Spring meetings took
a major step towards achieving universal education with the launch of the
groundbreaking plan called the Fast Track Initiative. The Fast Track
Initiative was a new compact between several donor and developing
countries: if developing countries developed sound, credible plans to
expand education access and quality, donors would not let them fail for
lack of funding. The 12 initial countries included: Yemen, Gambia,
Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Guyana, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Ghana,
Vietnam, Honduras, and Guinea

Oxfam International is a founding member of the Global Campaign for Education

For more information please contact : Caroline Green Tel: + 202 496 1174 or + 202 321 7858 or visit