October 11, 2016

Expanding Education to Reduce HIV, Teen Pregnancy in South Africa

New initiative will work with teachers and young people to stem the tide of new infections and unwanted pregnancies

Despite significant progress in battling the HIV/AIDS pandemic over the past 20 years, South Africa has 6.4 million people—more than 12 percent of its population—living with HIV. In response to this growing need, EDC is working with the government of South Africa to lead a new program to prevent new HIV infections among young people, support students already infected with HIV, and reduce the high rate of teen pregnancy.

In South Africa, young people—especially girls and young women—are particularly at risk for HIV infection. The prevalence of HIV among 15–19-year-old girls is 5.2 percent, a rate which jumps to nearly 18 percent when they reach the ages of 20–24.

To implement this initiative, EDC is leading a consortium of partners, including the Society for Family Health (the South African affiliate of Population Services International), the Health Economics and HIV & AIDS Research Division (HEARD) at the University of KwaZulu Natal, and Mott MacDonald LTD. The project is pursuing several key goals:

  • Work with parent and school management teams to advocate for HIV education efforts
  • Train education officials to serve as mentors and coaches
  • Strengthen the teaching and learning of sexuality education and life skills in schools
  • Ensure that HIV-positive students receive medical treatment and support in schools
  • Help prevent early pregnancy 

EDC has updated and tested scripted life skills lesson plans and trained 589 teachers on how to present the material in classrooms in eight districts across five of the nine provinces. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development under the PEPFAR program, the project’s goal is to reach half a million students in grades 3 through 12 by training up to 5,000 teachers to deliver school-based comprehensive sexuality education and HIV awareness programming.

“We are working closely with the government of South Africa, its schools and communities, to use the education system as a way to improve the life skills and knowledge of young people in ways that will reduce risky behaviors,” said EDC’s Sarah Nogueira Sanca.

Read more about EDC’s work in HIV and sexual and reproductive health.