Catholic World News 22-Oct-97

GENEVA (CWN) – On wednesday, the United Nations’ AIDS agency called on governments to institute and expand sexual education programs for children as a way to combat the spread of AIDS.

While recognizing opposition from religious groups against institutionalizing sex education, UNAIDS claimed its data shows so-called “safe sex” education does not encourage sexual activity. The group also claimed that it found higher contraceptive use among teenagers with sex education, in addition to lower pregnancy rates.

UNAIDS singled out Brazil and Zimbabwe as examples of countries doing a good job in sex education. Brazil begins teaching about AIDS to children as young as four and Zimbabwe begins education at nine years old.

“Failing to provide timely information to young people for fear of encouraging sexual activity is not a viable option,” said Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS. “Politicians have to take tough decisions. You’ll never find a consensus on this issue. But people are dying. No religion would like to lose followers because of an epidemic,” he said. According to the agency’s report, the number of reported new cases of AIDS worldwide rose 19 percent to 1.4 million in 1996.