Stigma over sex education is a barrier in Malaysia

WITH sex being the main way HIV is transmitted today, Malaysia needs to do more to promote safe sex, especially among youths.

But what holds us back is the stigma linked with sex education, says Malaysian AIDS Foundation executive director Jasmin Jalil.

“Many people believe that good kids don’t need sex education because they “will never engage in premarital sex”, and that sex education is only for immoral and “loose” kids, ” he says.

Such labels and self-identification are very dangerous, Jasmin adds, because it creates a barrier to information.

“When we teach youths about sex and correct condom usage, it doesn’t mean that we are encouraging them to have sex.

“We are actually educating them about the many types of deadly diseases that can be transmitted by unprotected sex.

“They also learn about the risk of unwanted pregnancies and why it is never a good idea to enter into early parenthood, especially when you’re not financially, physically and mentally prepared.

“This is life-saving information that everyone in Malaysia should learn and understand, ” he stresses.

Currently, students are taught the PEERS (reproductive and social health education) curriculum in schools.

Last month, StarEdu reported that a new health education syllabus on the PEERS curriculum will see general information on statutory rape being included in the Year Six textbook, among others.

However, some have said that PEERS should be more comprehensive, by including facts on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.

In 2018,94% of HIV cases were transmitted through sex in Malaysia.

Jasmin says the rising tide of sexual transmission has been a global trend for several years.

“It shows our society’s nonchalant attitude towards sex education because HIV, like many other sexually transmitted diseases, is totally preventable with correct condom usage, ” he explains.

For stronger prevention of HIV, Jasmin says there is a need for more awareness about Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a treatment regime that can keep HIV negative people from getting infected.

“The once-a-day pill reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by over 90%, ” he adds.

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