Objective: To estimate the association between school attendance, school dropout, and risk of incident HIV and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection among young women.
Design: We used longitudinal data from a randomized controlled trial in rural Mpumalanga province, South Africa, to assess the association between school days attended, school dropout, and incident HIV and HSV-2 in young women aged 13-23 years.
Methods: We examined inverse probability of exposure weighted survival curves and used them to calculate 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5-year risk differences and risk ratios for the effect of school attendance on incident HIV and HSV-2. A marginal structural Cox model was used to estimate hazard ratios for the effect of school attendance and school dropout on incident infection.
Results: Risk of infection increased over time as young women aged, and was higher in young women with low school attendance (<80% school days) compared with high (≥80% school days). Young women with low attendance were more likely to acquire HIV [hazard ratio (HR): 2.97; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.62, 5.45] and HSV-2 (HR: 2.47; 95% CI: 1.46, 4.17) over the follow-up period than young women with high attendance. Similarly, young women who dropped out of school had a higher weighted hazard of both HIV (HR 3.25 95% CI: 1.67, 6.32) and HSV-2 (HR 2.70; 95% CI 1.59, 4.59).
Conclusion: Young women who attend more school days and stay in school have a lower risk of incident HIV and HSV-2 infection. Interventions to increase frequency of school attendance and prevent dropout should be promoted to reduce risk of infection.