HIV/AIDS and Education in Africa

Debra Meyer – Rand Afrikaans University AWSE


After more than two decades of AIDS, the pandemic in Africa is still spiraling out of control. Because of AIDS, non-scientists now require more current and immediately applicable scientific knowledge than ever before. For example, they need a basic understanding of immune system functioning in order to understand the significance of an “HIV test” (as a test for antibodies and not for detecting the virus directly) and to comprehend how anti-retroviral therapy works and why its not a sufficient cure. On a practical level, they need to understand why, for example, an HIV-infected individual should not eat raw meat.

HIV is an enormous and enormously complex issue, so is education. This paper is intended to provide an overview of both issues and to suggest what is happening at the important intersection between HIV and education. Education, I believe, is both, at present, yet another tragic victim of the AIDS pandemic, but education is also key to overcoming HIV. The impact of the epidemic on the African education sector, especially given the role education can play in lowering infections, has been the focus of this paper. Indeed, it is hard to overestimate the damage that HIV is doing. But, there is room for encouragement. The HIV/AIDS global crisis requires the integration of HIV/AIDS into science curricula at all levels. The flip-side is that HIV/AIDS is giving us impetus and allowing us room to change. We can, if we work at it, improve science education and teach our students the necessity of civic engagement. The challenge certainly is great but so are the potential benefits if we succeed. We know how serious the consequences will be if we do not.

Topics of Interest to the SENCER Community

Overview of the effects of HIV/AIDS in the African Context

The interrelationship between education and AIDS in Africa

  • Education helps decrease and/or reverse the spread of the disease.
  • Education is a key factor in developing economic prosperity in developing countries.
  • Children with families affected by AIDS are often removed from educational opportunities for social and economic reasons, thus perpetuating poverty cycles and misinformation about HIV/AIDS.

How incorporating social and scientific study of HIV AIDS in curricula can benefit pedagogy and student outcomes in centers of higher education/tertiary learning in Africa.

  • Existing courses can be adapted to meet SENCER ideals.
  • Necessity of increased sensitivity on the part of faculty to students whose lives are directly affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • Positive roles played by recent policies and strategic plans at African universities for tackling issues related to HIV/AIDS in their communities.

Full Report

HIV/AIDS and Education in Africa

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Related Resources

About the Author



Debra Meyer
Rand Afrikaans University

Debra Meyer is a researcher and senior lecturer in the Biochemistry division of South Africa’s Rand Afrikaans University. Her research efforts are on a vaccine or other therapies against HIV/AIDS. Beginning as a graduate student, she has been very active in HIV/AIDS education projects on campus, in high schools, and at various community forums. In Gauteng Province, she has done HIV/AIDS education for over 10,000 teenagers and young adults. Meyer advises the Township AIDS Project (an NGO) to help them initiate voluntary counseling and testing programs funded by international organizations, and continue s her independent work in education and prevention efforts. She is regularly interviewed on TV, radio and for international and national magazines and newspapers regarding HIV/AIDS, and has written articles on the subject in South Africa for the secular media. Dr. Meyer can be reached at