Combatting HIV-AIDS in Teenagers

Manila Bulletin, October 26, 2007 | Go to article overview

Combatting HIV-AIDS in Teenagers


Byline: Bernardo M. Villegas

A recent trip to Singapore reminded me about how the coming International Congress on Teenage Education scheduled in Manila this coming November 20-22, 2007 has attracted widespread interest in Asia.

I met some of the Singaporeans who are attending the Congress. They told me that there will be more than 30 of them, mostly parents and educators, who will come to Manila for the Congress. They also informed me that the challenge of combatting the spread of HIV-AIDS is on top of the health concerns of the Singapore Government. I know for a fact that other advanced economies like Taiwan and Hong Kong are also quite concerned about this sexual disease.

While in Singapore, I got hold of a letter that a medical doctor Dr. John Hui, wrote to a local newspaper about the most effective way of reducing the incidence of HIV-AIDS among young people. Since he makes reference to Dr. Jokin de Irala, one of the main speakers in the International Congress in Manila, I would like to reproduce excerpts from his letter in this column to arouse greater interest among Filipino parents, educators, and NGO workers in the Congress. Dr. Hui was responding to an article that appeared in Today .

He starts by taking to task an article entitled "Beyond Abstinence, Youth Need Contraceptive Education Too." It was suggested in the article that the experience of countries in the West such as the United States has shown that sex education promoting abstinence alone is not enough to curb the rising trend of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among youth. Therefore, it is alleged, there is a need to promote the knowledge and use of contraception among them.

Dr. Hui cites contrary evidence: "However, studies have not proven this to be true. An article published by Professor Jokin de Irala in the British Medical Journal in August, 2007 noted that programmes, including those that promoted the use of condoms and other contraceptives, were actually not impressively effective in improving contraceptive use, delaying sexual debut nor avoiding unwanted pregnancies. In fact, another article by Walker et al in the same journal last year noted that in four of these programmes that promoted condom use, teens actually started having sex at an earlier age."

Dr. Hui also noted that a review by Tripp and Viner in 2005 reported that "over 90 percent of pregnant teenagers had discussed contraception with their general practitioner in the year before becoming pregnant." There are diverse factors which explain why teenagers do not seem to benefit from educational programmes that include the use of condoms and other contraceptives. …

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