Policy Brief: Substance abuse and education in orphans and vulnerable children

Alcohol and drug use amongst adolescents and young adults in sub-Saharan Africa is a potential problem, particularly among orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), and may be ameliorated by school enrollment, but there are no published findings from Zimbabwe on this. We collected data from 5,297 adolescents and young adults from 2009–2011 to investigate whether orphans and/or children caring for a family member with HIV are at increased risk of alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

The questions:

• Are OVC at an increased risk for smoking and alcohol and drug* use?

• Do OVC who practice substance use have greater HIV risk behavior?

• Does school enrollment reduce substance use in OVC (thereby potentially reducing HIV risk behavior)?

* Believed to be mainly marijuana in this population