I read an interesting article by Celia Dugger in The New York Times yesterday about a $1 million study conducted by MIT's Poverty Action Lab and financed by The Partnership for Child Development, based in London. The study took place in 360 primary schools in Western Kenya from July 2002 to July 2006 and will be used to determine effective spending of future HIV/AIDS prevention funding and the most effective way to combat AIDS in Africa. The study randomly divided schools into 4 different groups. The first group continued participating in the national HIV/AIDS education program only. The second group participated in the national program and received teacher training reinforcement. The third group participated in the national program and received support to reduce the cost of education. The final group particpated in all three plans, combining the national program with teacher training and reduced education costs.
Cheap Solutions for HIV/AIDS Prevention
The researchers found that when girls from impoverished rural areas were given their $6 uniforms for free, they were significantly less likely to drop out of school and become pregnant. Likewise, when told that older men are much likelier to be infected with HIV than their teen counterparts, rates peak at about 9% for men aged 40-44 versus less than .5% for teenage boys, the girls were far less likely to become pregnant by sugar daddies.
President Bush's Global AIDS Program spent $141 million worldwide last year to prevent sexually transmitted HIV. However, Warren W. Buckingham, the Kenya coordinator for the Bush AIDS plan said that some American-financed programs such as the Girl Guides, the international version of the Girl Scouts, generally didn't provide statistics on the rising infection rates with age, though they did warn girls about having sex with older men.
The study also found that Kenya's AIDS cirriculum, which provides only general information about how HIV is spread and emphasizes abstinence until marriage, had little or no impact on students' practical knowledge about condoms or teen pregnancy. On the other hand, the study found that teachers who held classroom debates and essay-writing contests on whether students should be taught about condoms to prevent the spread of HIV increased the use of condoms without increasing sexual activity.
Perhaps this is one more reason why the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) may be on the right track. SIECUS believes that our students deserve comprehensive sexuality education that provides unbiased, accurate infromation about sexuality and relationships including vital information on such important topics as STDs, HIV, and pregnancy prevention. SIECUS does not support teaching young people only about abstinence - primarily because scientific evaluations have never proven that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are effective.