Tom Perry, policy and campaigns officer at the National AIDS Trust, says Tuesday’s vote in the House of Lords against compulsory sex education represents a missed opportunity in the fight against HIV.
The National AIDS Trust is pleased to see that the Department for Education will be creating an expert panel on Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and collecting case studies demonstrating good practice.
We will be working closely with them to ensure teaching about HIV – the facts, how to protect yourself and others and the realities of living with the virus are given focus and that good quality guidelines for teachers are created.
However good these initiatives are, as long as teaching sex education remains optional and current guidance is based on decade-old information, we fail to address the root of the problem.
The current hands-off and inconsistent approach to non-statutory PSHE is not working.
A recent survey by the Sex Education Forum found that one in four young people learn nothing about HIV at school.
Research has also shown that sex education which is relevant and inclusive for LGBT young people is woefully inadequate.
The latest figures show in 2012 there were more new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in a single year than ever before, while new diagnoses among young gay and bisexual men have doubled in the past ten years.
The House of Lords decision and the government’s failure to support the amendments shows a lack of commitment to and investment in the sexual health of England’s young people.
We desperately need leadership from the government on this issue, ensuring sex education is accurate, up-to-date and meets the needs of all young people across all our schools, including LGBT youngsters.
NAT will continue to campaign on this issue.
Tom Perry is the policy and campaigns officer at the National AIDS Trust.