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India's Shyness Towards Sexual Education Fueling AIDS: Activists

October 30, 2002

Social activists say the Indian government's shyness about sex education among young people -- who are becoming increasingly promiscuous -- is fueling the spread of AIDS.

"There is a large population of about 300 million young people in the age group between 12 and 24 in India, and recent studies show their growing preference for pre-marital sex," said Rakesh Kumar, director of the non-governmental Center for Health and Development. "The government has no plans for the sexual health education of this group," Kumar said. Nearly 4 million Indians have HIV -- the largest HIV-positive population after South Africa's. Unofficial estimates put the figure closer to 5 million. Various social groups suggest that in the next 100 years, India will have the highest number of AIDS cases in the world.

"Led by a consumerist boom, the youth in India are actively indulging in sex. Their lack of education about safe sex norms exposes them to the AIDS trap," Kumar said.

A recent survey of Bombay youth concluded that 64 percent of those ages 14 to 19 were no longer virgins, and 43 percent had visited prostitutes. Another found that among young unmarried Indians, 69 percent of men and 38 percent of women reported pre-marital sex. Of those having pre-marital sex, 45 percent were ages 16 to 19; 27 percent were 15 or younger; and 28 percent were 20 or older.

"Young boys and girls in the age group of between 12 and 24 are most susceptible to unsafe sexual encounters and should be made the target group of government AIDS awareness programs," said Aditi Puri, a social activist and AIDS worker. "This is, however, not a government priority. There is no consensus in India over introducing sex and reproductive health education in the school and college syllabus."

Some government officials oppose introducing sex education in a country considered by many to have puritanical attitudes about sex. "Our society is not an open one. Inclusion of sex education in the syllabus can also have an adverse effect," said Ram Chandra Purbey, primary education minister in the state of Bihar.

Back to other CDC news for October 30, 2002

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Adapted from:
Agence France Presse
10.29.02; Santosh Jha

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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