25 May 2009
Straits Times Online Forum
Why teaching youth about condoms is important
I REFER to last Wednesday’s Forum Online letter, “Useful programme except for condom excerpt” by Mr Steven Tan, in which he argues that teaching youth about condom use will “confuse” them into unprotected sexual activity.
Last November, it was reported in the media that one in four sexually active women does not use birth control.
A 2002 profile of women going for abortions at the National University Hospital found that 75.5 per cent were married and a large proportion did not use birth control regularly.
According to Ministry of Health statistics, most women in Singapore who contracted the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are married.
It is clear from the aboveï¿½that many sexually active people in Singapore, including those who are married,ï¿½are not adequately informedï¿½about the importance of using condoms.
The message of sexual abstinenceï¿½is not sufficient – young people must be taught about condoms so that they areï¿½adequately preparedï¿½when they do become sexually active.
The claim that teaching condom use “confuses” young people is theï¿½same argument that persuaded Ugandaï¿½to abandon its strategy ofï¿½encouraging condom use in favour of “abstinence-only” education. After the change in strategy in 2001, HIV infection rates shot up.ï¿½ About 130,000 new infections were identified in 2005, in comparison to 70,000 in 2002.
The World Health Organisation, Doctors Without Borders, and UNAids (a joint programme among several United Nations bodies) all take the position that the promotion of condom use is vital to securing public health.
The Health Promotion Board is right to teach our youth about condoms in accordance withï¿½international expert medical consensus.ï¿½
We should not allow our discomfort with sensitive topics prevent us from protecting the health of our nation.
Jolene Tan Siyu (Ms)