Inclusive sex education needed to tackle rising HIV infections among young people, peers say

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Peers have warned about the rising levels of HIV infections among young people, renewing calls for inclusive sex and relationship education.

Telegraph exec and Conservative peer Lord Black of Brentwood led a debate on HIV in the House of Lords last night.

During the debate, the peer noted that infections among young people have surged.

He said: “Improving education about HIV and sexually transmitted illnesses more generally would also be of real benefit, especially as the increase in HIV incidence among young people is particularly sharp, up 70% in the last three years. It is time to look again at what is being taught about this issue, particularly as Department for Education guidance is now 16 years old.

“It is really important for young people to understand about HIV and to learn how to avoid it through condom use, but also to be taught the importance of being supportive of those living with HIV and not to fear or stigmatise them.”

Labour’s Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said: “[Sex and relationship education] said it is vital but the statistics are frightening.

“We know that only 40% of secondary schools in the state maintained sector have proper sex and relationship education on the curriculum and that primary schools, academies and free schools do not need to teach SRE. I do not think that that is right.

“I hope the noble Lord’s department is in earnest discussions with the Department for Education about a proper change in policy in this area.

“The noble Lord [Black] mentioned that the last government advice around these areas was produced 16 years ago, and it is the same in relation to sex and relationship education and guidance.

“There is a need for new guidance. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge in those 16 years—not least the introduction of same-sex marriage, the mass use of mobile phones, the internet, and all the issues in social media that that brings in relation to sex and relationships.

“The Government need to look at these issues very carefully.”

Lib Dem peer Baroness Walmsley said: “HIV prevention needs a strategy because it requires a combination approach, including traditional forms of outreach, sexual health counselling, condom schemes, harm reduction and good sex education in schools, with frank discussion of the risks and of how young people can protect themselves.

“That is what is needed.

“Information is power when it comes to health, as the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, proved in his campaign many years ago.”

Peers also discussed HIV-preventing PrEP drugs during the section.