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Parents say yes to sex education amid HIV rate spike

By Lavinia Louis and Juliana Menon

Malaysia –  PETALING JAYA – Parent groups urged Putrajaya to meet and come up with a sex education syllabus for schools after the Health Ministry revealed that HIV is increasingly transmitted through sex.

Parent Action Group of Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahman said yesterday that the health and education ministries should meet to decide what should be in the syllabus.

“Both ministries need to specify what is needed in the syllabus and come up with a solution before introducing to schools and enforcing it,” she said.

Noor Azimah said parents must also educate their children on sex.

“As a parent, you cannot depend fully on the schools to educate your children on sex. You too must play your part in educating your children on unsafe sex and its consequences,” she said.

Dr Sha’ari Ngadiman, disease control deputy director and HIV/ STI sector head of the Health Ministry, said  on Tuesday that 2015 statistics showed that 78 per cent of HIV infections were through sex, up from 74.6 per cent in 2014.

According to him, there were 3,330 new infections last year, including 1,398 through heterosexual transmission and 1,203 through homosexual and bisexual transmission.

National Parent-Teacher Association chairman Prof Datuk Mohamad Ali said the relevant ministries and religious bodies should discuss the matter.

“They should all come up with an integrated syllabus as the current syllabus in schools touches on sex education separately,” he said.

Mohamad Ali suggested that sex education deals with the consequences of unsafe sex as well as religious and cultural factors.

“This will teach the children on how to respect their bodies and also someone else’s. They should also be taught about self control and abstaining from premarital sex,” he said.

Mohamad Ali said sex education should emphasise on responsibility and care for others.

“The male should learn how to take care of their female counterparts and not make them an object for sex,” he said.

Pink Triangle chief operating officer Raymond Goh welcomed the Health Ministry’s suggestion for sex education in schools.

“If young people are aware of how they should care for their body and reproductive health, there will be a significant difference in the numbers,” he said.

Goh said sex education works as an indirect preventive measure that will make young people more cautious.

“So far, there had been many suggestions about the introduction of sex education. However, we have yet to see any results, so I hope the Education Ministry will agree with this suggestion,” he said.

United Nations Population Fund Programme adviser Saira Shameem said sex education would not promote sex, but would instead deter risky behaviour.

“A global research shows that comprehensive sexual education can delay sexual initiation and is an effective deterrent of teen pregnancy.

“The number of births per 1,000 girls, aged 15 to 19, is 13 for Malaysia and only four for Singapore. I believe they are doing much better than us right now because of sex education in their country,” she said.

Saira added that the Health Ministry’s effort to encourage sex education shows that they are moving with the current generation and are interested in the well-being of the public, especially young people.

“Their commitment and interest is essential for a long-term positive impact as it will ensure that young children are aware of the consequences, in terms of financial stability and responsibility of having a child caused by unsafe sex,” she said.

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