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Britain must do better on sex education for LGBT youngsters

Britain must do better on sex education for LGBT youngsters

I’ve been a supporter of NAT (National AIDS Trust), the UK’s leading HIV campaigning charity, for five years now. One of the reasons I support them is I am passionate about increasing the public’s understanding of HIV – not only to reduce the spread of the virus, but to help eradicate the stigma that unfortunately many people with HIV face.

Over the next year NAT will be campaigning for sex education in schools to better tackle the issue of HIV and address same-sex relationships.

This is an issue that is close to my heart.

New HIV diagnoses among 15 to 24 year olds have increased by 70% in the last 10 years. Among gay men they have more than doubled. This is a shocking statistic that we as a country should feel ashamed of.

We need to tackle this problem head-on and one way we can do this is by improving sex and relationship education in schools. I remember there being very little sex education at my school and I am disappointed this does not seem to have changed much since then.
Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) is not a compulsory topic in the current national curriculum and the sex education that does happen often fails to discuss same-sex relationships. This needs to change! Many LGBT youngsters are missing out on crucial information and advice that could allow them to make better-informed decisions about their sexual health.

NAT want SRE in schools to meet the needs of all young people. They want pupils to be given a chance to learn about emotional aspects of sex rather than just focusing on the biological, to hear the facts about HIV and to discuss same-sex relationships and their sexual health in an honest and mature way.

Being open about my HIV diagnosis is a personal choice and one that I have no regrets over, however many others disclosing their HIV status face real stigma. This discrimination is often a direct result of people’s lack of understanding.

A survey commissioned by NAT found that one in five people do not know HIV can be transmitted through sex without a condom between a man and a woman and a significant number thought it could be passed on through kissing – depressing statistics.

If SRE was to improve I feel sure that we would see an increase in understanding about HIV, and conversely a decrease in HIV stigma.

I’m proud to support the ongoing work of NAT and I’m very excited to be performing a live acoustic set at their annual fundraiser Spring Awakening on 30 May, to raise both funds and HIV awareness so that they can continue their vital campaigning work.

You can see Andy Bell performing live, including hit song A Little Respect, for NAT at Spring Awakening on 30 May, 7pm at Haberdashers’ Hall, 18 West Smithfield, London, EC1A 9HQ, UK. Find out more and get tickets here.