Education helps to reduce HIV Risk
It has been more than 30 years since HIV was first discovered. We have come a long way.
These days, HIV patients are living a normal life like anyone else. However, till date, HIV-related stigma and discrimination still exist in every corner of the world. Why? This comes down to the very basic of human nature. We fear things that we do not know about. We shy away from things that we do not understand. This is a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed. And how do we do that? The answer is very simple: Knowledge and education. This is why we always stress the importance of understanding an illness, including HIV.
Let us look at some date regarding HIV situation in Botswana, a country in southern Africa. With 25.4% of adults aged 15 to 49 infected with HIV in 2008, Botswana has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. This data basically looked at how education affected HIV rate in the country. In 1996, Botswana made huge changes to the structure of secondary school system, expanding access to grade 10. More children between 7-17 years old had the opportunity to go to school and get educated.
What was discovered later was shocking but not unexpected. Due to the changes in the education system and increased number of children who had access to education, risk of them become HIV positive have been reduced significantly. Each year they remained in secondary school reduced their risk of having HIV as young adults by about 8 percentage points. The reduction was 12 percentage points for women and 5 percentage points for men.
To further look at the connection between education and HIV risk reduction, researchers analyzed data from AIDS surveys done in Botswana in 2004 and 2008, involving 3,965 women and 3,053 men. They discovered that after the first nine years of schooling, each additional year was associated with a 3.6 percentage point reduction in the risk of being HIV positive 10 years later, when the study subjects were in their twenties.
This is a very significant example of how knowledge and education can play an important role in reducing HIV risk. It may not directly reflect the situation in Singapore, Malaysia or other parts of the world, but it definitely highlighted the importance of understanding a disease. People who know and understand a disease are more likely to change their attitudes and do the necessary in terms of disease prevention.
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