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Tue, May 09, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Lack of sex education criticized

SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES A city councilor says increasing liberalization of the country has caused a sharp increase in teenage promiscuity without a concomitant improvement in teaching on the subject

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

As Taiwanese society becomes more liberal, teenagers become more sexually active at an increasingly younger age. A Taipei city councilor yesterday expressed concern over the trend -- and called for compulsory early sex education.

He also suggested that medical authorities act on laws mandating the disclosure of information on patients found to have sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Citing recent data released by the Taipei Municipal Institute for Venereal Disease Control (市立性病防治所), New Party city councilor Chung Hsiao-ping (鍾小平) said the number of municipal youths who have contracted sexually transmitted diseases has registered an alarming number of cases in recent years.

According to the data, for the past five years -- from 1996 through 1999 -- the number of city teenagers aged 14 to 19 who were diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases stood at 79, 100, 66, and 74, and those infected with HIV were recorded at 3, 6, 6, and 5.

The numbers were just as alarming when compared with the same age group across the nation in 1999 alone, Chung said.

Of the 74 cases, six contracted syphilis -- compared to 27 nationwide; and four had gonorrhea, the same as the total for the rest of Taiwan.

The total number of municipal youths infected with HIV in 1999 was five -- including one 17-year-old illegal prostitute and one 17-year-old girl who was infected with the virus by her boyfriend -- while 20 were recorded elsewhere.

"This is just the official data, but I'm certain that the actual numbers are even higher because most people would choose to cover up their condition and refuse to seek further medical help because they thought it rather humiliating," Chung said.

According to Chung, the ratio of official data to actual numbers for those contracting HIV may be one to seven, while that for venereal diseases one to 10.

Citing other data released by the city's health bureau, Chung said that about 50,000 municipal youths aged between 15 and 19 have had sexual experience, or about 25 percent of the entire age group. When engaging in sexual intercourse for the first time, about 67 percent of them did not practice safe sex.

"This shows both our sex education and prevention systems have collapsed," Chung said. He proposed to a plan to muster joint efforts to tackle the overall problem.

"The city government should consider making early sex education compulsory, the city police should also stop sheltering illegal prostitution and gambling, and medical agencies should carry out the duty required by law to inform authorities of contagious diseases," he said.

According to the law, violators are subject to fines ranging between NT$90,000 and NT$400,000.

Chen Shou-chien (陳守堅), director of the institute said education is important.

"We have to teach the public about the importance of prevention because some venereal diseases are curable, and even though some of them aren't, they can be prevented," he said.

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