Experts Call for Global Sex, HIV Education Programs To Expand Beyond Discussions of Safer Sex Practices
Many sex and HIV/AIDS education programs around the world focus on the risks of unsafe sex, which can leave young people unprepared to deal with their sexuality or lead sexually fulfilling lives, experts said at a satellite session on comprehensive sex education at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City on Wednesday, IRIN News reports.
Maria Alcaldes, deputy director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said teachers often are not sufficiently trained to teach sex education in a way that allows children to make informed and responsible decisions. She said, "There is a need for sexuality education that goes beyond teaching the basic biology." Alcaldes noted that although Latin American countries have committed to comprehensive sex education programs, the number of teenage pregnancies in the region has increased. She said governments must work with communities to address these concerns.
Brian Ackerman, international policy manager for Advocates for Youth, criticized the U.S. global HIV/AIDS funding mechanism, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, for limiting some HIV prevention education programs to abstinence and fidelity messages. "Society should not be afraid of young people having sex -- it is a reality," Ackerman said, adding that young people need more information about condom use.
Prabha Nagarja of the Indian organization Talking about Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues, which runs an anonymous help line, said the group's efforts have shown many shortcomings in India's approach to sex education. She said, "A new national curriculum on sex education tells young people what not to do sexually, without telling them why or explaining to them the most basic things, such as how intercourse happens." She added that callers to the group's help line "have no idea how to protect themselves" from HIV/AIDS. Swedish AIDS Ambassador Lennarth Hjelmaker said, "Teaching about the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is necessary, but it must go hand in hand with teaching about healthy sexuality and communicating with young people about their experiences" (IRIN News, 8/6).
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