Talk sex with teens, health minister says

| 17/06/2009

(CNS): Health Minister Mark Scotland believes that everyone – parents and the community – needs to have candid conversations with children and the youth about HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. "We need to keep the lines of communication open with them so that our youth are armed with the necessary knowledge to understand the steps they can take to protect themselves and preserve their health,” Scotland told CNS, though both he and Education Minister Rolston Anglin said there were no plans to hand out condoms at schools in the Cayman Islands.

"Our young people need to know that they have choices to make, and they should be allowed to make informed choices. If they choose to protect themselves through abstinence, then that is one personal choice. However, if they choose to be sexually active they need to know, and understand, the need toprotect themselves through measures such as using condoms,” the health minister said.

However, the new education minister did not rule out the possibility of making condoms available at schools in the future. “On the face of it many would argue that if the government was to engage in such a public policy it would potentially be encouraging illegal and immoral behaviour,” Minister Anglin said. “I say potentially illegal, because of the age at which a person can engage legally in sexual activities (and any age before this could lead to legal implications for those participating!).”

Anglin continued, “Having said that, everyone acknowledges that teenage pregnancy and the spread of STDs amongst teens is a real issue. The approach to curb both of these would involve a multi-faceted approach. Abstinence is still the only sure way to avoid both of these perils. Pro-social and moral behaviour is what government and the wider society should instil in teenagers. Having said all of that there will still be some teenagers who experiment with sexual behaviour. The distribution and/or sale of condoms at schools would be a public policy decision that would involve engaging the health and education professionals and the wider community for guidance and input.”

Anglin said the Ministry of Education was committed to dialogue to elicit the widest and deepest input on such highly sensitive issues. “We would be guided by community input on such matters,” he said.

Minister Scotland also raised the issue of discussing sex at the launch of the Red Cross initiative Breaking the Taboo — A Community Effort to Start the Dialogue. “Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to HIV and AIDS. In fact, such ignorance inevitably leads to misconceptions, myths and stigmas – a combination that makes it virtually impossible to fight the disease,” he said.

According to figures collated 30 September 2008 by the Public Health Department, three people under the age of 25 have died from AIDS in the Cayman Islands to date. Since the first identified AIDS patient in March 1985, there have been a total of 44 AIDS cases (as of 30 September 2008), resulting in 30 deaths, with a further 41 people testing positive for HIV that has not developed into AIDS. Most of the 85 people who contracted HIV through sexual intercourse (67%) are heterosexual, with 20 men identifying themselves as homosexual or bisexual. Four children contracted HIV through perinatal contact, one through IV drug use overseas and the source of two patients is unknown.

Scotland said although most find HIV/AIDS a difficult topic to discuss at home, in school or church, Cayman’s young people need to have candid conversations on this topic. “Because official figures show low infection levels in Cayman, many tend to think HIV and AIDS are not priority health issues. However, we need to remind ourselves that official statistics only reflect those tested; actual figures may well be higher. In addition, our local aids activists and public health officials tell us that if current sexual behaviors do not change here, then HIV/AIDS will become an increasingly serious problem,” he continued.

Scotland said his ministry would continue to support the drive for sexual health education as this represents a critical element in securing a better future for Cayman’s youth. “My call to everyone is: Learn to talk about this subject. Talk about safe sex, talk about low-risk behaviour; talk about the stigma and the need for annual testing, because in the end we are talking about our people, and especially the collective future of our precious young people,” Scotland concluded.

However, while advocating more discussion, both publicly and privately, there do not appear to be any practical initiatives planned. Scotland told CNS that the Ministry of Health remains supportive of any education and preventative initiatives spear-headed by the Public Health Department and NGOs such as the Red Cross and the Cayman AIDS Foundation. However, in answer to specific questions, he said that at this time the Ministry of Health is not contemplating any initiatives such as the installation of condom vending machines in government buildings or handing out condoms at schools.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Richard Cheese says:

     I am impressed by the apparent willingness to set aside fear driven by dysfunctional religious doctrine and actually tell children the truth.  When the children grow up and start making rational decisions based upon complete information, they may stand a chance to avoid the danger that ignorance fosters.  They may think "When I am ready to have sex, I think I’ll use a condom to avoid disease, death or premature parenthood".  Just maybe…  

    Pretending they won’t have sex is just silly – a good number of people do that before they are married, religions notwithstanding.  Keeping the information from them that will keep them healthy/alive is not that different from actively helping the make them diseased or pregnant or fatally ill.

    Maybe there is hope for them (and us)!

  2. Salt N Peppa says:

    I wonder if they still have that video they used to show us in Life Skills class with the pregnant man, scared the crap out of me. Still haunts my dreams to this day in fact. Then again, I wasn’t really getting any action in those days anyhow.

  3. noname says:

    Is therea Minister Scotland or is it Mark Scotland impersonating a Minister ???

  4. Anonymous says:

    I applaud Mr. Scotland for initiating public dialogue on this issue. It is imperative that our young people become properly educated regarding sexual practices.  Unfortunately, on this issue the ostrich mentality is still alive and well in this country and many young people are practicing wrong behaviours out of ignorance. Others, on the other hand, are promiscious and make the same stupid choices as some adults do, and so I believe that this open debate will do our society good by extending to adults as well.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I thought having at least one illegitimate child was part of the exam process for graduating high school in Cayman anyway??

    • 8 year old git says:

      "I thought having at least one illegitimate child was part of the exam process for graduating high school in Cayman anyway??"


  6. C.J. says:

    Back off Annoynomous- Min. Scotland is doing the best he can to deflect the situation after being rendered impotent from the BT smackdown.

  7. Annoynomous says:


    That’s the most freaking amazing original thought that I’ve ever heard of in the past 43 seconds!  Oh why, why couldn’t I have thought of this????

  8. Annoymous says:

    Exacatly Min. Scotland. I support this in everyway.  Teens are more educated on Sex, Drugs and Violence than their parents, or teachers.  If we don’t educate them on the right way then they are going to assume that the way they know as best is the right way.

    We spend all this money educating the Teens on drugs and violence, but yet we leave out the most important factor SEX.  If we had introduced Sex Education in schools from the 80’s and forget this old fogey way of thinking that SEX is a bad thing, and let the religious groups go and pray for the Teens instead of beat up their gums about talking SEX to them is not christian we would have far less teenage pregnancies in this country today and far less dead beat fathers, and much farther less teens with 2, 3 or even 4+ children before they reach 20. 

    I keep saying it look at The Nethelands (Holland); they introduced SEX education to their children from they are 5 years old, they educate them on all the good and bad things associated with SEX, including the diseases from unprotected partners etc.  Also, check out their legal age for SEX, it is 19 and ours is what 16 or might even be 15, how one sided and ridiculous is that.  But yet the Netherlands has the lowest teenage pregnancies in the world.  Check it out for yourself it is out there for the world to see. 

    Wake up Cayman, educate these children on the good and bad the pros and cons and show them the consequences of their own actions by being neglectful and irresponsible when it comes to SEX.  And to those Christian groups who think this is all going to destroy our children, let me say this to you, you are destroying them by not making them aware in the right waywith education, and available resources such as condoms in the schools.  I would personally fill those machines every week if I had to so my child and our children who did have SEX was doing so safely.  Your actions and comments are more detrimental to the livelihoods of our children than some counsellors educating our children about this very important and responsible topic, SEX.

    God gave man knowledge and understanding to educate others, he didn’t say hoard it up and only give to the select few a little bit of this or a little bit of that.  God uses us to help others not to be their downfall and rightly thinking Christians would wholeheartedly agree with me.

  9. AJ says:

    Talk to the young people and then LISTEN to what they tell you!  If you can talk to the young people, you can find out why they have decided to have sex and what could influence them to abstain or to have safer sex.  You might have to talk to them one-on-one but to solve the problem you need to get right to the source (e.g: peer-pressure, self-esteem).  DON’T BULLY THEM, DON’T USE SCARE TACTICS AND DON’T PRE-JUDGE THEM, JUST LISTEN TO THEM AND SHOW THEM RESPECT AND YOU WILL BE ABLE TO GET THE ANSWERS YOU NEED.