Sexuality Education is Key to HIV Prevention

Deborah Laporta

Will the Caribbean and Latin American countries, which pledged to support comprehensive sexuality education programs to stop the spread of HIV, make good on their commitments?

A couple days
before the beginning of the XVII International AIDS Conference, education
and health ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean convened in
Mexico City to express their commitment to the rights to health and
education, as well as the well-being of present and future generations. 

One of the
main agreements in this meeting was the commitment to implement and/or
strengthen intersectoral comprehensive sexuality education and sexual
health promotion strategies, including HIV prevention, which are to
be complemented with efforts by the relevant authorities, according
to their own responsibilities and attributions. 

years into the epidemic, the role that education plays in the fight
against the spread and growth of the pandemic is very clear to all of
us. Several studies have shown that people with access to quality sex
education are more likely to live their sexuality in a healthy fashion,
while teenagers at a low educational level are more vulnerable to HIV

In Peru, public
recognition of this commitment will be a milestone only if it becomes
an opportunity for the state and civil society to bring their efforts,
lessons learned and experience together in order to make it a reality,
and if it is translated into public policies and programs that go beyond
governments. Otherwise we will continue asking ourselves, as we now
do: What are the costs of the government’s putting off and evading,
for so many decades, its responsibility to implement a sustained national
quality sex education program for students? How many girls, boys, teenagers
and young people have been denied the possibility of getting accurate
information in order to enjoy their sexuality without guilt or shame?
How many teenagers had no access to the information and counseling they
needed to prevent unplanned pregnancies? How many teenagers unknowingly
exposed themselves to a sexually transmitted infection such as HIV? 

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The numbers
of teenage pregnancies and HIV infections may be a reflection of the
consequences of not having a comprehensive sex education that recognizes
all the dimensions of the experience of sexuality; one that respects
the diverse ways in which people live their sexuality, is based on a
human rights framework, challenges unequal gender relations, and rejects
all forms of discrimination and rights violations. 

This call for
awareness about the cost of having put off such a decision does not
seek to point fingers at those responsible for procrastinating. It is
an appeal both to the state and civil society to join in the commitment
to design and implement effective, planned strategies with state funds,
not just international cooperation financing, and policy provisions
that will allow these proposals to go beyond each governmental term
and become state policies. 

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