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More Girls in Schools Would Slow HIV Spread in Africa

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The best way to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa is to enroll young girls in school, experts told a House panel on Monday.

The speakers pinned the blame for most transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, on unschooled African women, who take on sex jobs for needed income.

Girls and women with formal education are more likely to understand the risks of HIV transmission and avoid contracting the disease, they said.

Girls in school are seven times less likely to have AIDS,'' said Gene Sperling, an economist at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former economic adviser to President Bill Clinton.Almost every misconception about AIDS decreases when a child is in school.''

According to UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, young African women have a higher prevalence of HIV infection, almost double that of men in some countries.

Congress last month passed President Bush's $15 billion plan to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean during the next five years. AIDS has killed more than 20 million people worldwide and now infects 42 million, about 30 million of whom in Africa.

Sperling said every African country supports the ``Education For All'' agreement which would provide schooling for all African children by 2015, but the governments do not have enough resources to provide for the education. Many women must stay home from school and find other means of income.

Carol Larivee of Family Health International, a nonprofit public health provider, said prostitution has led to a high incidence of HIV cases in the military in Africa. She cited statistics that said HIV cases in 20 to 40 percent of the region's armed forces and between 50 and 60 percent of the military carrying other sexually contracted epidemics.

Carl Stecker of Catholic Relief Services said education could also help buffer African communities from famine and food shortages. He said when workers contract HIV, they become less energetic and productive.

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., who heads the Congressional Task Force on International HIV and AIDS, sponsored the briefing.


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c.2003 Cox News Service

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