Infographic showing the impact of maternal education on preventing transmission of HIV and AIDS
The impact of maternal education on preventing transmission of HIV and AIDS

Life skills taught in school vital to reduce risk of HIV and AIDS

Only 7% of school children in E & S Africa have desired level of knowledge on HIV and AIDS

On World AIDS Day, new research conducted for the Global Monitoring Report  ‘Youth and Skills: Putting education to work’ shows the importance of investing in life skills education in school to ensure children have the confidence and negotiating skills to say no to sex and negotiate condom use.  Tests with around 60,000 grade 6 students in fourteen countries in South and East Africa showed that only 7% of school children in the regions have the desired level of knowledge on HIV and AIDS; and just 36% have even the minimum level of knowledge.

In twelve of the fourteen countries assessed in the regions, children from poorer households and those in rural areas scored significantly lower than those of high socio-economic status. In South Africa for example, one of the countries with the highest prevalence rates, more than half of students from rich households reached the minimum level of knowledge on HIV and AIDs compared with just one in five of those from poor households.

Even in the country scoring the highest on awareness of HIV and AIDS amongst schoolchildren, the percentages were low. Tanzania scored the highest and yet still only 33% of grade 6 students reported they had never attended HIV education classes during the year. 

Knowledge about HIV and AIDS varies within countriesMonitoring global progress towards Education for All goals, the 2012 Global Monitoring Report gathered evidence from across the region to demonstrate the impact that a life skills education – empowering children with confidence, self-esteem, decision making and ability to negotiate – along with HIV and AIDS education can have on increasing its prevention.

In Kenya, a life skills curriculum with grade 8 students decreased the incidence of teenage pregnancies by 61%. In South Africa, a life-skills education programme increased condom use at first sex by 10-12 percentage points for 14-18 year olds.

Botswana halved the rate of new adult HIV infections from 2001 to 2009, partly thanks to introducing a life-skills education approach in 2006.  The new curriculum increased the percentage of women aged 15-24 years who correctly identified ways of preventing sexual transmission of HIV from 28% to 45% between 2003 and 2009.

In Zimbabwe, the ‘Grassroots Soccer’ programme, an out of school activity which includes life skills education on HIV and AIDS, increased the proportion of those who knew condoms were effective from 40% to 71% and proportion of those who knew where to go to turn for help from 47% to 76%.

The impact of maternal education on preventing transmission of HIV and AIDS

Last year’s Global Monitoring Report on Education for All calculated the impact of an education for mothers on reducing HIV transmission from mother to child – a factor which infects 370,000 children a year. It showed that a secondary education as opposed to no education at all doubles the number of mothers who know that mother-to-child transmission can  be prevented using anti-retroviral treatment during pregnancy. Likewise, while only 59% of mothers without any education know that the chance of HIV and AIDS can be reduced by condoms, the percentage rises to 72% with a primary education, and 81% with a secondary education.

Impact of primary education on awareness of HIV and AIDSRecommendations:

–          Life skills training, such as confidence, self-esteem, negotiation and decision making, must be a concrete part of any curriculum teaching health, sex education and broader HIV and AIDS education.

–          Programmes of this type should be planned and sequenced across primary and secondary school, incrementally adjusted to age, stage and situation of the learner. They also need to reach those out of school.

–          Teachers need to be trained and supported to deliver life skills education on sensitive issues related to sexuality and HIV and AIDS.

–          Involving parents and communities in the development of life skills curriculum can help to ensure their acceptance of sensitive issues.



  1. The work of GrassRootsSoccer and Kick4Life in raising awareness and prevention of aids is notable. These initiatives work, but the real solution resides with the training of teachers and government sponsored community programs. .

  2. I agree with SHA. Change doesn’t come about on its own. It requires the community coming together with community: teachers, government officials, parents, children. I worry that not all constituients are brought together to bring about change sometimes and indiiduals stand alone with their ideas, thus not getting the support that is needed by everyone.

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