03.06.2011 - Education Sector

Sex education equals value for money


Sexuality education is key to HIV prevention among young people: it may not only provide value for money but, in some cases, major cost savings, according to a landmark UNESCO study on the cost and cost-effectiveness of school-based sexuality education.

The seminal six-country study, carried out in Estonia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, the Netherlands and Nigeria, gives an economic basis to the argument that sexuality education provides a key platform for HIV prevention amongst young people. 

The findings show the potential for cost-effectiveness, and even cost savings, in both high- and low-income countries through scaled-up, compulsory sexuality education programmes that are integrated into school curricula. 

In Estonia, for example, a combination of quality education programmes and youth-friendly services has had a demonstrated effect  on the number of HIV infections, abortions and unintended pregnancies, delivering major cost savings. Between 2001 and 2009, an estimated 13,490 of these and other adverse health events were averted, including 1,970 HIV infections. 

The UNESCO costing study provides data and analysis that strengthen the evidence base for investing in sexuality education programmes in schools, particularly in countries most affected by the HIV epidemic. The costs per learner receiving the curriculum in scaled-up, well established programmes range from US$6.90 in Nigeria to US$32.80 in the Netherlands.  

First presented in New York in April 2011 at an International Symposium on Sexuality Education convened by the UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team on Education, the study complements UNESCO’s 2008-2009 , which highlights the positive impact sexuality education programmes can have on key behaviours related to HIV prevention.

Related Links

Cost and cost-effectiveness of sexuality education programmes: Executive and country summaries (pdf)

International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education,

Getting to Zero, the UNAIDS Strategy 2011-2015

UNESCO's Response to HIV and AIDS




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