30 per cent of school-aged children sexually active -- survey

Kaieteur News
April 25, 2007

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Statistics reveal that just over 67,724 school children between the ages of 15 to 19 years old are sexually active. According to a recent Behavioral Surveillance Survey (BSS), this number accounts for approximately 30.6 percent of in-school youth.

The report puts the median age of sexual debut for in-school youth at 15, one year below the age of consent.

According to Ms. Phyllis Jordan, a presenter at an HIV/AIDS prevention workshop yesterday, 56.8 percent of students reported that they had used a condom on the first occasion of sexual intercourse, which translated to only 38,467 school children mitigating the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS at first sex.

The other 29,257 would, therefore, have been in jeopardy of contracting the virus at their first intercourse, the survey concluded.

The BSS report further revealed that a mere 6.2 percent of in-school youth, 13,722 of the total population of 221,321, were tested for HIV.

Yesterday's programme was one of several that seek to make the ‘Operation Restoration' policy a reality. According to Jordan , the non-governmental organisation ‘Operation Restoration' was registered in 2004 with the mission of imparting God's perspective on human sexuality and to restore the time-honoured value of fidelity and abstinence.

The statistics were presented to policy makers with the aim of highlighting the role of those entities in terms of setting policies and structures that will provide a sustained delivery of abstinence-centred programmes, particularly for in-school use.

Jordan contended that abstinence has a considerable advantage over every other method used to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, commanding a zero percent failure rate.

Yesterday's activity also sought to convey to policy makers the strong case of presenting abstinence as a strategy against HIV/AIDS, which in Guyana is classified as serious.

“We want to suggest very strongly that the Government facilitates mentoring programmes for our youths. Given the current social environment, the youths need an enabling environment, and we believe that collaboration between the churches, schools and the Ministry of Education can provide that enabling environment for our youth so that they cannot just pledge, but they can proclaim abstinence through to marriage,” Ms Jordan said.

Among the group of policy makers present at yesterday's event were members of the Government and the Opposition, members of the international donor community, education officers, and church organisations.

Speaking at the open forum was co-leader of the Alliance for Change, Raphael Trotman, who commended the initiative of the organisation, but said that simply telling youths not to have sex or to practise it safely is not enough.

He said, “Those of us who are the policy makers, unlike you who are trying to undo much of the damage that has happened and is happening, are in a sense disconnected from the short process of young people, and so as much as we preach abstinence and safe sex, there is something else happening there that we are out of touch with.

“I personally feel that young people are being bombarded with two different messages that are causing confusion; one is abstinence and the other is safe sex,” he added.