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Sex Education Needed in the Caribbean

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Sir George Alleyne: Leading Caribbean Health Expert and Administrator Backs sex Education in the Region’s Schools

Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

With teenage pregnancy rates remaining stubbornly high in the Caribbean, the teaching of sex education becomes part of the school curriculum across the region.

So said Sir George Alleyne, University of the West Indies Chancellor who once headed the Pan American Health Organization, the Western Hemisphere’s premiere health body.

“I have felt and I became much more conscious of this when I was the United Nations special envoy for HIV that we fool ourselves if we do not think that young people acquire information about sex and sexual practices very early on outside of the classroom,” Sir George said in an interview with the New York Carib News. “To the extent that we can convey the appropriate information within the classroom is a positive and I am sure that some of that information would correct some of the misinformation they receive from unreliable sources, including uninformed peers. I am a strong believer in sex education in schools.”

Sir George, the first health expert and top administrator from the Caribbean to lead PAHO gave his strong backing for sex education in schools across the region at a time when Caricom countries have some of the Hemisphere’s highest adolescent fertility rates. According to the United Nations State of the World Population report 2013, Jamaica’s adolescent birth rate was 72 per 1,000 women between the ages of 15-19; Guyana’s 97; Belize 90; St. Vincent & the Grenadines 70 births; Antigua & Barbuda 67; Haiti 69; St. Kitts-Nevis 67; and Suriname 66 births. At the same time, Trinidad and Tobago had a rate of 33 births; the Bahamas 41; St. Dominica 48; St. Lucia 49; Barbados 50; and Grenada 53 births per 1,000 teenage girls over the age of 15 years. Cuba’s was 51 and the Dominican Republic’s 98.

Sir George, considered one the world’s leading advocates of international action to combat the epidemic of non-communicable diseases – strokes, cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease disagreed with opponents of sex education in and out of the Caribbean who warn that the introduction of sex education in schools would lead to heightened teenage sexual activity.

“Perhaps, the term sex education connotes something different, in other words to educate people to have sex,” he added. “That is far from the truth. Perhaps we need a different name to describe exactly what is done. The Caribbean once had a set of programs on family life education which was a less confrontational term. It included many of the things that are taught in sex education.

“Many of us refuse to accept that sexuality is a normal part of each of us, your physical growth, spiritual growth and sexual growth. Sexuality is a very normal part of human being,” Sir George asserted. “How it is seen is perhaps the damaging issue. But to the extent that we teach the children in schools about what is healthy about relations between the sexes, about what is normal about progression in their bodily functions those things are healthy.”

He worries about the “distorted perspectives” about sex which youths get from various sources.

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