HIV infection is one of the major problems facing school-age children today. They face fear if they are ignorant, discrimination if they or a family member or friend is infected, and suffering and death if they are not able to protect themselves from this preventable disease.  It is estimated that 40 million people, worldwide, are living with HIV or have AIDS, at least a third of these are young people aged 15-24. In 1998 more than 3 million young people worldwide became infected including 590,000 children under 15. More than 8,500 children and young people become infected with HIV each day. In many countries over 50% of all infections are among 15-24 years old, who will likely develop AIDS in a period ranging from several months to more than 10 years. In Sub Saharan Africa, girls are frequently becoming infected in their early teens.

Studies have shown the enormous impact HIV and AIDS have on the education sector and the quality of education provided, particularly in certain regions of the world such as Sub Saharan Africa. Consequences of the AIDS epidemic include a probable decrease in the demand for education, coupled with absenteeism and an increase in the number of orphans and school drop out, especially among girls. Girls are socially and economically more vulnerable to conditions that force people to accept risk of HIV infection in order to survive. A decrease in education for girls will have serious negative effects on progress made over the past decade toward providing an adequate education for girls and women. Reduced numbers of classes or schools, a shortage of teachers and other personnel, and shrinking resources for educational systems all impair the prospects for education.

Effective, skills based HIV/STD/reproductive health education and prevention is needed in all schools for all children so that no one is left ignorant. Yet in many places schools are apprehensive about providing sex education or discussions of sexuality because of cultural demands to protect adolescents from sexual experience. Women often lack skills needed to communicate their concerns with their sexual partners and to practice behaviors that reduce their risk of infection, such as condom use, which is often controlled by men.

The school can either be a place that practices discrimination, prejudice and undue fear or one that demonstrates society’s commitment to equity. School policies need to ensure that every child and adolescent has the right to skills based life education; particularly when that education is necessary for survival and avoidance of HIV infection.

A UNAIDS review (1997) of 53 studies which assessed the effectiveness of programs to prevent HIV infection and related health problems among young people concluded that sex education programs do not lead to earlier or increased sexual activity among young people, in fact the opposite seems to be true. 22 reported that HIV and/or sexual health education either delayed the onset of sexual activity, reduced the number of sexual partners or reduced unplanned pregnancies and STD rates. 27 studies reported that HIV/AIDS and sexual health neither increased nor decreased sexual activity, pregnancy or STD. The review concluded that school based interventions are an effective way to reduce risk behaviors associated with HIV/AIDS/STD among children and adolescents.

A WHO review of studies on sexuality education found that access to counseling and contraceptive services did not encourage earlier or increased sexual activity.In Europe and Canada where comprehensive sexuality education and confidential access to condoms are more common, the rates of adolescent sexual intercourse are no higher than in the United States and teen-age pregnancy rate is lower.

In South Africa , until late in 1999 the department of education had no policy on HIV/AIDS. In August 1999 the Departments Corporate Plan 2000-2004 identified action on HIV/AIDS as one of the five priorities.  The main objectives 1) raising awareness about HIV/AIDS among educators and learners 2) integrating HIV/AIDS into the curriculum, and 3) developing models for analyzing the impact of HIV/AIDS on the system.

Education’s HIV/AIDS policy is consistent with the priorities of the Department of Health’s strategic plan but goes further to provide guidance on discrimination in schools and institutions. It specifies that:·
  • The constitutional rights of learners and educators must be protected equally
  • There should be no compulsory disclosure of HIV/AIDS status
  • No HIV positive learner or educator may be discriminated against.      
  • Learners must receive education about HIV/AIDS and abstinence in the context of life-skills education as part of the integrated curriculum.
  • Educational institutions will ensure that learners acquire age and context appropriate knowledge and skills to enable them to behave in ways that will protect them from infection.
  • Educators need more knowledge of , and skills to deal with HIV/AIDS and should be trained to give guidance on HIV/AIDS (Carol Coombe  CICE, December 2000, Managing the impact of HIV/AIDS on education in South Africa)

Skills based health education focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention
Stimulate peer support and HIV/AIDS counseling in schools
No discrimination of HIV positive teachers or students
Access to condoms​