World AIDS Day – Comprehensive Sex Education is a Key Tool for Protecting NC’s Youth

(press statement read by PPSAT field organizer and NCWU board director Emma Akpan at the Durham Stand With Women press conference on World AID’s Day; December 1, 2015)

We are here on World AIDS Day to look back on the progress we’ve made in the 30-plus years we’ve been experiencing this global epidemic; and to look forward to the day we create an AIDS-free generation. And many experts believe we are getting close to creating that generation. We have many of the tools we need to bring up a generation AIDS-free, including accurate and specific information about how HIV is spread, and how young people can protect themselves when they decide to become sexually active. We owe the young people of North Carolina factual, age appropriate, inclusive and effective sex education.
In a last minute move during the end of the 2015 legislative session, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill that would loosen standards on sex education in North Carolina starting in September. As of now, almost any expert can have a say in how our youth learn about healthy sexuality. It was a sneaky way of introducing abstinence only education to our students, because many people are not trained in comprehensive sex education, although they may think they are. It was also a move pandering to special interests who are trying to bring an ideological, faulty and judgmental sex education curriculum to North Carolina public schools.
At a time when the existing sex education is still not adequate for our youth, especially our LGBTQ youth, we shouldn’t be loosening standards. We know that when youth have quality sex education they are more likely to wait to have sex, they have better conversations with their partners and they use condoms more often. We know the current sex education typically focuses on heterosexual relationships and pregnancy prevention, which puts more youth at risk for contracting HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections; you can’t protect yourself and others when you don’t know the facts. Young people have proven again and again that given all of the facts and options, they will make the choices that are right for themselves.
High quality, inclusive, and medically accurate sex education is how we can keep our youth, and our state, healthy. As we look back on the progress we’ve made in this epidemic, now is not the time to take steps back. Thank you.