Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV & AIDS seeks further Government engagement on HIV awareness as part of PSHE in schools
Today, Mike Freer MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV & AIDS, spoke in the chamber about the need for greater awareness of HIV in the teaching of health and sex education to pupils. Mike noted the success of previous public health campaigns on HIV, notably the Don’t Die of Ignorance campaign of the 1980s, but highlighted that with 44% of new infections occurring in those aged between 18-34, many are unlikely to have seen the adverts and mass media campaigns of previous generations. He warned that this in turn, could give rise to the idea that if diagnosed with HIV, access to antiretrovirals will mean that ‘nothing will happen to them, or that if it does they do not have to worry, because there is a pill or because by the time it becomes a problem there will be a cure’. This attitude, he noted, risks a rise not only in new HIV infections but other STIs as well.
Mike also noted new ways that young people learn about sex and find sexual partners. He called upon schools to include peer education as a means of removing barriers to useful sex education and ensuring that safe sex messages are adopted by young people. In particular, Mike highlighted the work of Robbie Lawlor and Terrence Higgins Trust’s Positive Voices campaign in the UK, as well as the work of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation Sex Squad in the US.
Also participating in the debate was Stephen Doughty MP, Vice-Chair of the APPG, who praised the work of Youth StopAIDS in raising HIV awareness not only in the UK but globally as well, setting an example for young people at home and abroad.
The Minister’s response recognised that HIV is a serious public health concern and that it is ‘crucial that we ingrain the safe sex message, particularly in young people’. The Minister also recognised the work of Public Health England and the Terrence Higgins Trust in ensuring that young people have access to information and testing related to sexual health and HIV. She also agreed to meet with the organisations mentioned by the Chair to hear more about the work they are doing.