HIV EXAM

Students will be tested for HIV

Educate students on sex
Students to volunteer for HIV testing

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and never more so than when it comes to the life-or-death matter of HIV status.

New research has once again highlighted the need for voluntary HIV testing in schools, inevitably reigniting an old argument between old antagonists.

The Department of Education is against testing, citing the need to protect the privacy of pupils. It also asserts that handing out condoms in schools will encourage students to have sex and contribute to an already unhealthy discourse at odds with the three Rs.

The Department of Health regards this position as unnecessarily conservative and dangerously irresponsible.

Who is right?

What is interesting about the latest research is that it was based on asking school pupils what they thought. Now there's a novel idea.

Amazingly, 90% of them said they thought voluntary testing should be allowed, with 76% saying that the tests should be done at schools.

Now, when you consider that 60% of the children who responded to the questionnaires said they were sexually active - 40% of them boys who claimed to have had two or more partners in the last three months - surely the whole school-testing debate is a no-brainer.

Even more so, you'd think, when you consider that 60% of respondents thought they would never contract HIV - a disturbing misapprehension, corroborated by an HSRC study in which 75% of respondents aged 15 and above perceived themselves as being at low risk.

What is at issue here, other than the right to life, is perhaps the future of education itself.

Should our schools equip children with knowledge that speaks to the world they live in, that recognises that some children are experimenting with sex and gives them the tools to know what's at stake when they do?

Or should we use our schools to keep children in the dark and hope for the best.

That seems to work well for mushrooms, but hormone-revved teenagers are a rather different matter.

 

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