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17 Nov 2005

Factsheet 3 : Morbidity of student educators and further education and training (FET) lecturers

Sue
Press Release

Key findings: 8.2% of students and 3.9% FET lecturers tested in this study were found to be HIV-positive. Among student educators the most frequently diagnosed diseases over the five years preceding the study were stomach ulcers, followed by anaemia, asthma and high blood pressure.

Although the student sample may not be representative of third-year and fourth-year education students in tertiary institutions, the observed prevalence of 8% is quite high for people who are being trained to enter the teaching profession. Certainly, they contribute to higher HIV prevalence among educators, even though educators may independently have a high HIV prevalence.

Results

The supply of educators could be affected by the extent to which students experienced health problems. We thus assessed the health status of student educators through a series of self-reported questions and found that 8.2% of student educators were hospitalised in the past 12 months. The overwhelming majority of students considered themselves to be in good or excellent health. Only 53.3% had visited a health practitioner in the previous six months of the study. The most frequently diagnosed diseases over the five years preceding the study were stomach ulcers, followed by anaemia, asthma and high blood pressure.

Students’ HIV status

8.2% of students tested in this study were found to be HIV-positive. Third-year students were less likely to be HIV-positive (7%) than the fourth-year students, whose prevalence was 15.5%. Because the sample size of third-year and fourth-year students was small, the two groups were combined.

The HIV test results show that females had a much higher HIV prevalence (9.9%) than males (4.8%). Black African students had a prevalence of 13.2% compared with coloureds, Indian/Asians and whites combined, whose prevalence was less than 1%. Examining the HIV distribution by age revealed that the HIV prevalence was highest for those aged 25-29 years.

The results indicated that socio-economic status was associated with HIV status; those with a perceived low socio-economic status had a much higher HIV prevalence (13.1%) than those with a perceived higher status (3.7%).

FET lecturers

The majority of FET lecturers have so far escaped the HIV epidemic; only 3.9% are HIV-positive. The gender disparity in HIV prevalence among FET lecturers exists, with men having a prevalence of only 2.9% compared with 5.0% among women. The highest HIV prevalence among FET lecturers are among black Africans (9%), those aged 25-34 (8%), those who are unmarried (8%), those who are poor (7%) and those who work at institutions in urban areas (4.3%).

The observed prevalence of 8% among student educators should be a source of concern. Although the sample may not be representative of third-year and fourth-year education students in tertiary institutions, the observed prevalence of 8% is quite high for people who are being trained to enter the teaching profession. Certainly, they contribute to higher HIV prevalence among educators, even though educators may independently have a high HIV prevalence.

The socio-demographic analysis of the student-educator sample suggests that the population of students entering the teaching profession is unlikely to remain in poor underresourced rural areas. The Health of Our Educators Study (Shisana et al. 2005) has shown that only a few white educators (8.5%) are found in rural schools, as opposed to 91.5% in urban schools, while 69.5% of black African educators teach at rural schools. The survey did not collect data on whether students came from rural or urban areas but only the location of the institution. However, many black African student educators studied in urban areas, and they are the ones who are likely to be deployed to a school in a rural area. This presents challenges given the observation in Shisana et al. (2005) that mobility and deployment to rural areas is associated with higher HIV prevalence.

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