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Sex Education Called to Curb AIDS

Chinese experts are calling for additional safe sex education based on the family unit to curb the country's growing AIDS crisis.

The effects of AIDS are being felt more and more throughout families, said Jin Jun, a professor from Tsinghua University Tuesday at the World Family Summit.

From a worldwide perspective, nearly half of the 39.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS are women, and at least 25 million children and young adults are severely affected by the disease, said Jin.

In China, the proportion of infected women has increased from 10 per cent in the 1980s to the current 41 per cent, he added.

These women, many of whom are infected by their husbands, usually transmit the virus to their children, creating a vicious circle.

Gender inequality results in poor education among women, scarce possibilities to practice safe sex, and little access to treatment, which in turn have fueled the spread of HIV infections, said Jin.

While in China the spotlight is on educating high-risk groups including intravenous drug users, prostitutes, gays and blood-sellers, the professor said those high-risk groups are made of individuals who still have families or had families in the past.

In this sense, he said it is a must to educate families to become self-protective when dealing with AIDS.

It is much more difficult to stop sexual transmission between husband and wife than mother to child, so people's notions about safe sex must be changed through education, said Jin.

We also need to create mechanisms to train families to cope with the impact of the disease, especially in the realm of home-based care, he said.

Sikiratou Adeothy Koumakpai, a professor from Benin, echoed those thoughts during the summit. He said the country has seen a successful drop of HIV/AIDS victims from 4 percent to 2 percent through effective programs integrating the government, non-governmental organizations and families.

He said it is best to ensure every infected person is still closely linked to and supported by family, she said.

Families should also be better educated in AIDS prevention.

Considering that 7.4 percent of HIV carriers in China are below 19 years of age, Wang Zhenyu, a professor from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said parents should give their children a diaper-to-dating sex education rather than dodging the topic.

Current sex education in China focuses on physiological changes but ignores safe sex, said Wang.

Basic knowledge on contraception and self-protection from sexual abuse is seldom taught to children by their parents and even schools.

So, a lot of young people get access to the so-called knowledge from some sources which contain pornographic information.

The age of adolescence among Chinese youth today is one year younger than that in the 1980s, said Jin. But the education usually starts in high schools, later than it should.

The last 10 years have witnessed great changes in notions about sex, including an increasing number of pre-marital pregnancies and abortions, according to the National Population and Development Report issued in September.

(China Daily December 8, 2004)

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