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January 17, 2008

School Attendance May Lower HIV Risk

Secondary school attendance may result in a lower risk of HIV infection in young people, suggests a study published in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, reports Medical News Today (, 1/17).

The study examined 916 young men and 1,003 young women between the ages of 14 and 25 in rural South Africa. Researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Public Health in South Africa and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) found that among both the boys and girls studied, those who were in school reported having a smaller number of sexual partners than their peers who were not in school. For young women, the reduction in the number of partners was accompanied by greater condom use and partners who were closer to their own age; for young men, those who were in school were much less likely to be HIV positive than those who were not.

“Our study suggests that in South Africa, being in school can [positively] shape young people’s social networks, leading to less high-risk sexual behavior and, therefore, lower rates of HIV infection,” said lead researcher Dr. James Hargreaves, of LSHTM.

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