Sun, Jul 14, 2013 - Page 8

Morals, not condoms

I found last Sunday’s news really inspiring and thought-provoking: The Taiwan AIDS Society said HIV prevention strategies should include education and convey the message: “A: Abstain and B: Be faithful.”

On the contrary, earlier news (“Officials urge schools to fight AIDS with condoms,” June 23, page 3) caused considerable disquiet in educational circles.

Actually, Greater Tainan Deputy Mayor Yen Chun-tso’s (顏純左) message was really confusing and even misled the public.

He said universities should allow condoms to be sold on campus to help counteract the growing AIDS epidemic.

Really? Despite decades of calling sex with a condom “safe sex,” there are still 50,000 new infections in the US each year.

In fact, most adolescents in the US received sex education at school at least once between grade seven and 12, and starting from the 1980s, comprehensive sex education curricula were intended to reduce sexually transmitted disease and teenage pregnancies while providing information on contraception and condoms.

Safe sex promotion became more prominent in the late 1980s as a result of the AIDS epidemic, which emphasized to the teens (as well as the general public) the importance of using condoms every time they have sex.

However, the truth is, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report in February this year, placing the current number of sexually transmitted infections in the US at 110 million.

About 20 million new cases are diagnosed each year, costing taxpayers about US$16 billion.

Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are disproportionately affected by the epidemic, accounting for half of all infections.

Alas, young people aged 13 to 29 accounted for 39 percent of all new infections in the US.

In contrast, the very high rate of HIV infection experienced in Uganda during the 80s and early 90s made the government develop a strong relationship with community and religious leaders who worked with the grassroots to teach “Abstinence, Be faithful” as a top priority message.

HIV prevalence declined dramatically from about 15 percent in 1991 to 7 percent in 2007.

Moreover, the research recently released from CDC states clearly that religion, faith and a strong moral sense play vital roles in protecting teens from early sexual activity and teen pregnancy.

Teens who have not had sex give as the primary reason that it is against their religion or morals.

It may be surprising for adults, even politicians and government executives to ponder the role that faith and individual morals and values have played in this respect.

With Taiwan’s 15 percent annual increase in HIV infections, plus the fact that in the past five years the number of new HIV infections has been highest among people aged between 20 and 29, it is high time for Taiwanese and government officials to decide whether to copy the US’ 1980s safe sex model for sex education and HIV prevention.

Lei “Rosemary” Ching-mei