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Global know-how for kids coming to terms with sex

Resource type: News

Argus Weekend (South Africa) |

South Africa is falling into line with other countries in bringing awareness of the dangers of HIV and risky sexual behaviour to younger and younger children. Children of 12 are indulging in risky sex, highlighting the need for a speedy shift in sexual health awareness. SA schools’ awareness programmes are largely incorporated into the life orientation curriculum. Last week Grade 6 and 7 pupils from several primary schools in Kensington attended an HIV/Aids workshop at Kensington High School. Speakers, some HIV-positive, gave pupils practical advice. Entertaining ways of getting the message across were also used, with hip hop dancers taking to the stage. Zelia Harvey, a Grade 7 pupil from WD Hendricks Primary School, said she knew Aids was killing scores of people. “I also know that you can’t tell if someone has it just by looking at them,” she said. Liesl Oliver, a Grade 7 St John’s Primary School pupil, said: “Nowadays children are having sex earlier. So it’s important they know about HIV and take workshops like this seriously.” While project co-ordinators were hesitant to display posters advocating condom use, many said they realised the fact that children were having sex could not be ignored. The goal was to arm them with life-saving knowledge. Kensington High School pupil Aneeqa Basardien, 17, called for greater creativity in warning children about Aids as they got bored easily and didn’t take it in. loveLife, which spearheads several HIV/Aids awareness campaigns, said children were starting to experiment with sex earlier. A loveLife counsellor said most of their calls were from 12 to 17-year-olds. Most sought advice about sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies. Healthwise is an international four-year collaboration between the University of the Western Cape, the University of Cape Town and Penn State University in the US. More than 5 000 pupils from nine Mitchells Plain high schools are involved. Lisa Wegner of UWC said four high schools were in the Healthwise programme, while the other five would receive the normal curriculum-based life orientation. The aim was to postpone sexual debut, or at see that they used condoms.