A frightening thought is the idea that sex education is the only time that talk about HIV is allowed. Education on HIV/AIDS should stand alone, much like anti-drug or anti-alcohol rallies and events in schools. But if talk on AIDS should be combined, instead of simply combining HIV/AIDS education with sex ed classes, prevention should be a major focus of anti-drug and anti-alcohol programs, due to the correlation between substance abuse and sexual promiscuity. Dr. Larry Siegel, M.D. et al., writes in AIDS: The Drug and Alcohol Connection: “It’s apparent that education about the risks of disinhibition might play a powerful role in containing the spread of AIDS, since alcohol and other drug use is widespread among people who engage in risky behaviors.” (28). On that note, it is important that schools provide ample opportunities to mention issues on HIV infection when they warn of the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse.
The other obvious reason for this partnership is that not only are teens who abuse substances often promiscuous, they also tend to not care or not have access to possible physical protection from HIV. Jeanette Broshears, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program Director at the University of Texas-Pan American, said in a recent interview that teenagers and young people who abuse alcohol or use drugs “often have a death wish mentality anyway.” But those who don’t have the desire to end their lives and do have sexual intercourse while under the influence of drugs, including alcohol, are not in the right frame of mind to worry about protecting themselves. (Interview, Broshears).
It would be foolish to remove sex issues from discussion about HIV completely, because American teenagers are still getting infected primarily through sexual contact. But we need to remove HIV transmission and sex as exclusive partners. HIV/AIDS prevention education should be part of quality abstinence-only sex education curriculum, which includes discussion about HIV. But this curriculum needs to be presented at least once a year in each grade through high school. HIV education should also be a part of discussions on substance abuse. But because sex is not the only way to get HIV, this would require a crucial shift in American thinking: to see HIV for all that it is, including a non-sexually transmitted disease. HIV prevention education will continue to be ineffective in reaching teenagers as long as it is not allowed to be taught honestly and as especially as long as it is automatically tied to sex education. Honest discussion and education on HIV prevention should be available for American teenagers.
HIV/AIDS Education in Public Schools
(a research paper by Daniel Garcia; June 29, 1999)
A Christian Response to AIDS: Research
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