Socio-economic status is a known factor in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) risk. A new study in Botswana has revealed that longer schooling seems to be an effective and affordable way to cut the risk of HIV infection in AIDS-endemic countries.
Data collected among 7,018 people in Botswana found that an extra year of secondary schooling lowered the risk of HIV infection over the following decade by 8% points, from about 25 to 17%. The southern African country with one of the world's highest HIV incidence was an ideal setting for the study as a change in its education system in 1996 led to an average increase of about 10 months in schooling. This permitted a direct comparison of rates of infection between young adults schooled before and after the change.
The study authors said, "We show that secondary schooling has a large protective effect against risk of HIV infection in Botswana. The effects were particularly large among women, for whom the risk was 12% points lower for every additional year of education."
Study co-author Jan-Walter de Neve of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, hypothesized that better knowledge about preventing HIV infection may be one effect of longer schooling. He said, "Additionally, education may expand economic opportunities and reduce women's participation in higher-risk transactional sexual relationships."
The authors said, "Secondary schooling appeared to be a cost-effective intervention for HIV-endemic countries with a high return on investment in the form of healthier and longer-living, economically active adults."
The study is published in The Lancet