A quarter of young people are not learning about HIV and AIDS, the Sex Education Forum has found.
A survey of 800 young people carried out by the forum, part of the National Children’s Bureau, also found that nearly half of the respondents felt they had not learned all they needed about the infection.
The House of Lords HIV and AIDS in the UK select committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the adequacy of public education about HIV and AIDS. Giving evidence at the inquiry last week, schools minister Nick Gibb said it was “unforgivable” that children are not taught about the condition.
Learning about HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted disease is compulsory for all maintained secondary schools.
Jane Lees, chair of the Sex Education Forum, said: “We urge schools to build learning about HIV and AIDS into a planned programme of sex and relationships education with regular lessons taught by trained teachers. Families also have a huge role to play. Through talking about HIV and AIDS more openly we can lift the taboo and ensure that every child and young person receives their entitlement to vital information.”
For some young people questioned, education about HIV and AIDS had been limited to a one-off event such as a half hour lesson in the final year of secondary school or an assembly to mark World AIDS Day. Young people said they wanted to see more time allocated on a regular basis to the subject and a wide range of sex and relationships education topics.
Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of young people said they had talked about HIV and AIDS with friends and a third had discussed the subject with a parent or carer.
One young respondent said: “Just because we are afraid of the way AIDS can affect our lives doesn’t mean we need to hide it under the rug. Speaking about it will keep knowledge up. And with that knowledge comes the power to help ourselves.”