A study was performed in Botswana that revealed just one year more of secondary education produced a drastic reduction in the risk of contracting HIV. In a part of the world where approximately 1 in 4 will contract HIV over the course of a decade following school, reducing the percentage to 17 would mean thousands of fewer cases of HIV.

Also interesting to note is the fact that decreased risk of HIV infection was more significant in young women than men. It has been speculated that the reason behind these findings is that the additional year of education during this crucial stage in adolescence keeps students from participating in the same amount of risky behavior they would be taking part in if school were already over. For women especially, education seems to have a major impact, and may be a cost effective way to reduce HIV infection across Africa, where may nations currently do not provide the same educational opportunities for young girls as they do for boys.

What are the implications of this study for a nation plagued by HIV such as Botswana where a 2013 study revealed that 22 percent of individuals in the 15 to 49 age group were infected? The fact is that providing an extra year of schooling to secondary school students for free is far less of a financial burden on the nation than trying to provide treatment after infection.

The 8 percent difference in risk represents a significant improvement for both the health and the economy of the nation. HIV infection is not the only aspect of health that is improved as nations provide more education. Other concerns, such as child mortality, are also positively affected when a nation places a great emphasis on school and learning.

In short, when it comes to risk of HIV infection, education matters. Indeed, no matter where in the world you live, education plays a vital role for children to remain healthy, especially in parts of the world where education has life and death consequences.