Monday, August 29, 2016

Strategies to keep girls in school and comprehensive sexuality education

Education confers higher knowledge about HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights and leads to better health outcomes for young women and adolescent girls (32, 33). It lowers exposure to gender-based violence and increases women’s and girls’ chances of being financially secure and independent. Compared with girls who have at least six years of schooling, girls with no education are twice as likely to acquire HIV and do not seek help in cases of intimate partner violence, which can increase the risk of HIV infection by 50%, according to a South African study (60, 16). The longer a girl stays in school, the greater the chances that she will use modern contraception if she does have sex and the lower her chances of giving birth as an adolescent (9). 

Some of the most powerful structural interventions for HIV risk reduction among adolescent girls across Africa are those that aim to keep girls in school (34-37). These interventions include making education free of charge for girls (38), supporting orphans and other vulnerable children to stay in school (39, 40), and conditional cash transfers that reward parents for keeping their daughters in school (41). When young women and adolescent girls have access to comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education before becoming sexually active, they are more likely to make informed decisions about their sexuality and approach relationships with more self-confidence (42, 43, 44). Critically, school-based comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education is also known to increase young girls’ condom use, increase voluntary HIV testing among young women, and reduce adolescent pregnancy (45, 46, 47). The 2013 Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Eastern and Southern Africa reaffirmed the commitment of Africa’s leaders to ensure that all adolescents are equipped with “life skills-based HIV and sexuality education and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services”, demonstrating a clear dedication to addressing the specific needs of young people and their right to their own agency, in the context of HIV and sexual and reproductive health.

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