MOCUMBI wants frank discussion on adolescent sexuality

Maputo- Mozambique (PANA) -- Mozambican Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi has warned that unless political leaders deal frankly with questions of adolescent sexuality, there can be little hope of stopping the spread of the lethal disease AIDS in Africa.
In an article entitled "A Time for Frankness on AIDS and Africa", published in the New York Times on Wednesday, Mocumbi believes "there will be much discussion about international aid, about drugs and vaccines" at the forthcoming special UN session on AIDS.
"But there is likely to be too little said about what is the primary means by which AIDS is spread in sub-Saharan Africa: risky heterosexual sex," he says.
Mocumbi, who is a medical doctor by profession, warned that "AIDS is not like smallpox or polio.
We may not be able to eliminate it simply with a one-time vaccination or course of shots for children, since new strains of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) are constantly evolving".
"And unlike the communicable killer diseases we have encountered most often in the past," he added, "HIV is transmitted through the most intimate and private human relationships, and through sexual violence and commercial sex; it proliferates because of women's poverty and inequality".
In Africa, and elsewhere, most political leaders still view adolescent sex as a politically volatile subject to be avoided, while community and religious leaders wrongly believe that sexuality education promotes promiscuity, he points out.
"We must summon up the courage to talk frankly and constructively about sexuality.
We must recognise the pressures on our children to have sex that is neither safe nor loving.
We must provide them with information, communications skills and, yes, with condoms," he emphasised.
Mocumbi notes that the overall rate of HIV infection among girls in Mozambique is 15 percent - twice the rate among boys of the same age.
This had nothing to do with promiscuity, he added - it was because "nearly three out of five girls are married by age 18, 40 percent of them to much older, sexually experienced men who may expose their wives to HIV and sexually transmitted diseases".
"Abstinence is not an option for these child brides", Mocumbi pointed out.
"Those who try to negotiate condom use commonly face violence or rejection.

21 june 2001 22:07:00

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