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Child Education Can Dramatically Cut HIV Cases

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Washington (dpa) - Seven million cases of HIV could be prevented over the course of a decade if all children received a complete primary education, according to a study released at a World Bank meeting Sunday.

However the study concluded progress in making education available to all has been slow.

More than 100 million children, the majority of them girls, do not attend school in developing countries, according to the study released in conjunction with meetings of education and international development leaders in Washington.

People aged 15 to 24 who have completed primary education are less than half as likely to contract HIV as those not receiving an education, said the Global Campaign for Education study.

By accelerating behaviour change, universal primary education would prevent 700,000 cases of HIV each year, about 30 per cent of all new infections in that age group, the study said. HIV is the precursor of AIDS.

But it would take an additional 5.6 billion dollars a year in aid to ensure that every child could go to school, education leaders meeting in Washington said. That's about the equivalent of three days of military spending, the study said. Currently, 1.4 billion dollars in aid goes to education.

"Now is the moment of truth," World Bank President Jim Wolfensohn told reporters.

Calling the funding gap "very significant", Wolfensohn added that progress has been made in reaching one of the eight Millennium Development Goals, namely enabling every child in the world to complete primary education.

"At least on this subject, there is momentum," he said.

Yet, only the Netherlands is giving enough aid to reach the millennium goal. Only five countries spend the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income for overall aid, according to the aid organization Oxfam International.

Only the Netherlands and Luxembourg are providing their fair share of overall education aid, while countries such as the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan need to increase aid to education by at least 10 times, Oxfam said.

Copyright 2004 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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