1 December is World Aids Day and I wish I could say that the news was good. UNICEF has just released its report and surprise, surprise Africa is still the most infected continent.
In South Africa infection rates are not decreasing and Kwa Zulu Natal is the province with the most new infections. It comes as no surprise that the demographic being most infected is girls between the age of 15 and 25! We need HIV Education.
What surprises me is that there still seems to be confusion about why we cannot control infection. So let me give it to you straight. People have sex! They enjoy sex!
Many don’t understand sex and without proper, informed, enlightened sex education in PRIMARY school, you will continue to lose the battle.
Why in the 21st Century are we still so afraid to talk to our children about sex? If you are leaving the conversation until you think your child is ready, I guarantee it’s too late. When I speak to parents not one has ever said, you’re right I’m sure my child is sexually active. Every single one – without exception has said, ‘Not my child, he/she is still innocent’.
Get your head out of the dark ages it resides and get with the program. Talking to your child about real sex is not going to rush them into the act. I would suggest that it may just do the opposite and really what have you got to lose? The current system is not working, we know it’s not, so don’t you think it’s time to try something new.
With all the abuse, sexual assault and unprotected sex we know about, it is little wonder infection continues unabated but let’s not talk about sex and respect and consent.
The report I refer to mentions ‘Blessers’ as one of the causes for infection rates in girls 15 to 25. Just that statement is an indictment on our society. Now for those of you who don’t know what a Blesser is, he is an older man who gives young girls money, airtime, clothes, food, sanitary pads or handbags and in return he gets to have sex with her.
Who do we blame? The young girl who believes that sex is an easy way to get what she wants or needs or the man who uses his money to get what he wants, a shag with a young girl? It is a very broken system.
The young girl is almost always left with one of two unwanted gifts or both. HIV and/or a baby!
No society in the world has escaped poverty without educating and uplifting their women. An educated girl will leave school later, will earn more, participate in the economy, be healthier, will have babies later and these babies will have a better survival and education rate.
If a girls and boys are educated about sex, birth control, STDs and the prevention of HIV at a very young age and this education is reinforced every year, do you not think we will see the benefits and a much healthier and empowered next generation.
I have done some work in Africa this year and whilst South Africa is way ahead of some countries when it comes to women’s rights, these HIV statistics are warning that much of what I believe to be true is a sham and window dressing. We have not enlightened, educated or empowered our girls to say no! They still cannot insist on the use of a condom. Our girls are not economically empowered. They are still having sex for basic necessities.
Every single culture, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Xhosa, Greek, Italian, Zulu, Pedi, Boer or any of the others you identify with cannot step back and say ‘In my culture!’. Your culture is not working! Just think about how what you were taught or more probably not taught has affected your sex life in the most basic ways. Enjoyment is the biggest casualty of a healthy sex life.
In the work that I do, in schools talking to the children is not enough. We have to educate the teachers because once we leave the children are subjected to the teacher’s belief system. We learn from example. Teachers, parents, civic and religious leaders all bear a responsibility and if I was to give us a score card it would be F-.
This is my last column for 2017 I was hoping it would be cheerful. It certainly is food for thought. So as the year closes and resolutions are made I am hoping that yours will be to have open and honest discussions about sex, education, poverty and the cycle of abuse that persists in the 21st Century.
My solution – Educate, Educate, Educate!