Tag Archives: Sex and Relationships Education

HIV and the general election – what we should be talking about!

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Press Release via NAM (@aidsmap)

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NAM is an award-winning, community-based organisation, which works from the UK. They deliver reliable and accurate HIV information across the world to HIV-positive people and to the professionals who treat, support and care for them.

The National AIDS Trust and HIV Scotland have joined together to identify the key priorities for the new Parliament which will reduce HIV transmission and improve the lives of people living with HIV across the UK. They are calling on the next UK Government to commit to the following:

1. Retain the protections set out in the Human Rights Act, which acts as a safeguard to ensure people living with HIV can live a meaningful, safe and fulfilled life.

2. Introduce compulsory Sex and Relationships Education for all schools, which is inclusive of young people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and has appropriate sexual health and HIV content – in the first session of the new Parliament.*

3. Make HIV prevention a national public health priority, with effective funding, more varied testing options and access to the full range of prevention information and choices for all who need them.*

4. End HIV stigma in the NHS and social care through the training of all NHS and care staff.*

5. Ensure that people affected by HIV-related sickness or disability have the support they need by committing to the Disability Benefits Consortium’s Five Things You And Your Party Can Do For Disabled People.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: ”HIV has already been talked about during the general election but now we need to focus on how we can decrease the number of people getting HIV in the UK, how we can reduce the shocking levels of stigma and ignorance around the disease, and how we can ensure people living with HIV are treated with respect and dignity.”

George Valiotis, chief executive of HIV Scotland, said: “The responsibility for many of the decisions that affect HIV are devolved in Scotland – sex and relationships education, HIV prevention and the training of NHS and care staff. Despite this, the new UK Government has a key role to play north of the border. Chiefly retaining a commitment to the Human Rights Act and ensuring dependable, fair access to welfare support for those who need it.”

The charities are asking voters to raise these issues when talking to candidates and to share the five HIV asks.  This is part of a cross-sector campaign, with Terrence Higgins Trust joining the call for the new Government to take action on sex and relationships education, HIV prevention for England and a stigma-free NHS. 

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Sex Education & Government / Internet Censorship

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The #CensoredUK hashtag, spearheaded by the Sex and Censorship group, has been drawing attention to some of the unexpected sites that end up being blocked when internet providers buckle to government demands to censor “adult content”.

Nine out of 10 homes will have porn filters on their computers by the end of January, after a Government deal with four big internet providers. Web giants TalkTalk, Virgin, Sky and BT, have all agreed to introduce network filters which can block inappropriate content from all the online devices within the home.

Across several mobile internet providers, however, harmless sex and relationships education sites are being blocked by their web filters.  For example, the sexual health charity Brook, has turned up on website checkers as being default blocked. But this is plainly not adult content, so why?

Another site that is blocked in some cases is the NHS page about sex and young people, which contains questions and answers about the changes teens can expect during puberty, advice around not abusing alcohol, and support for people who want to remain abstinent.

Most mobile providers offer a service where you can report incorrectly categorised sites. It’s unclear what happens when sex ed sites are reported, however.

And a separate study shows over-zealous Wi-Fi filters are blocking many harmless and helpful sites. One in three public Wi-Fi hotspots are preventing access to harmless sex education and religious sites, the research by AdaptiveMobile carried out during September across 179 locations in Birmingham, Manchester and London found.

Sexual health is not “adult content”. Lumping important (and for many young people, the only) sexual health advice they will have access to in with porn is a mistake.  More to the point, politicians need to understand that making internet providers do so is not the Government’s job.

There is also a concern for LGBT teens, some of whom will not have the support of their families and may have little access to safe, reliable information about sex and sexuality. What about them?

Maybe internet providers mistakenly believe that good, thorough sex and relationships education is available in schools, but as the Wonder Women Better Sex Education campaign has demonstrated this year, it isn’t. Sex ed in schools as it currently exists is not fit for purpose. The teaching guidelines haven’t been updated in over a decade and make no mention of the internet.

There are of course a myriad of other problems with the filters system. Sites that are critical of the way sex and sexuality is reported in the media are at risk of being blocked; the problematic news stories that make the rounds about gay people, trans people, and others won’t necessarily be.

Once a Government gets a taste for censorship, they rarely stop at “adult content”, as well. Think that the blocks accidentally keeping young people away from educational resources is a one off? Just wait until a political blog or forum you read gets blocked under the excuse of “banning extremist speech”. It’s not a question of whether this will happen, it’s when.

The bottom line is understanding the deep irony that by presenting internet censorship in the wrapper of protecting kids, we may actually be keeping them from information that has been shown to actually protect them. The question now is: does the Government care?

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