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International News

Education Slows Spread of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa

March 31, 2009

A Penn State University study of 11 sub-Saharan African nations finds that basic education can act as a "social vaccine" against HIV/AIDS.

The common belief is that if people learn the facts, behavior change will follow, explained David Baker, professor of education and sociology at Penn State. But just because people know facts about HIV/AIDS does not mean they understand them, he said.

"In some of our work, we were interviewing people in a rural village in sub-Saharan Africa. And we were talking to a man, who is illiterate, and we were asking how about the transmission of AIDS. And we asked him 'can you get HIV from a blood transfusion' and he gave the correct answer. He said 'yes.' And then he said 'but not if you wear a condom,'" said Baker.

Though the man had memorized the facts, he was not able to make good use of them, said Baker. "Obviously facts are important. You need to know the basic facts, but beyond that what education does is it helps you think about how those facts go together. And it helps you develop, what we could call, a working theory, a working model of the disease and your risk. So we think that just basic education has a major effect on how people think about risk and that's what we mean in terms of a social vaccine."

Prevention programs' content "is going to have to get much more explicit," Baker continued. "It's going to have to work with people to have them understand what is the causal agent in the transmission of the disease and inform them more."

Back to other news for March 2009

Adapted from:
Voice of America News
03.25.2009; Joe DeCapua

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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