Lack of adequate education, support and nutrition are behind South African AIDS orphans’ higher likelihood of engaging in early and risky sex, according to a recent study.

The study, conducted by the Health, Economics and HIV/Aids Research Division of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and researchers at Boston University,  examined 663 children living in the remote Amajuba District Municipality in the eastern part of the country. The region has a 46% HIV prevalence rate, the highest in South Africa.

The researchers found that paternal orphans were more than two times as likely to have had sex as children who had two living parents. Researchers hope to use these findings to map out a child welfare plan by the year 2010.