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After condoms, it's sex education for health minister

After condoms, it
Highlights

After Condoms, It\'s Sex Education For Health Minister. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has once again triggered controversy. Days after he suggested that to prevent AIDS fidelity in marriage was better than use of condoms; the ear, nose, throat (ENT) specialist has said that sex education should be banned in schools.

New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has once again triggered controversy. Days after he suggested that to prevent AIDS fidelity in marriage was better than use of condoms; the ear, nose, throat (ENT) specialist has said that sex education should be banned in schools.

In his vision document for Delhi schools, the minister has said, “so-called sex education' (should) to be banned." His website - drharshvardhan.com - also states the need to integrate value education with course content.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.

Vardhan is currently in the US and unavailable for any comments.

Earlier, the health minister had stoked controversy after he suggesting that promoting condom use in Aids campaigns is seen as encouraging illicit sexual relationships. Later, he said that his comments were “distorted” and “condoms promise safe sex, but the safest sex is through faithfulness”.

The minister, who is currently in the US to participate in an international meet on preventing child and maternal death, also maintained that for the past two decades he has been “stressing the need for safe sex using a combination of condoms and a discipline which is in line with the Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom (ABC) line of UNAIDS”.

Dr Vardhan was quoted as saying that focusing on the use of condoms in Aids campaigns sends the wrong message that “you can have any kind of illicit sexual relationship as long as you’re using a condom”.

The minister had reportedly said he would like to see that change, with more emphasis on “promoting the integrity of the sexual relationship between husband and wife, which is a part of our culture”.

“An impression is sought to be created that I have misgivings about the efficacy of condoms or that I have a moral problem with condoms. This is apart from the fact because for the past two decades I have been stressing the need for safe sex using a combination of condoms and discipline,” he wrote on Facebook.

Read: Health Minister Harsh Vardhan’s clarification on his AIDS comment

I have expressed “disappointment” over the way sections of the media have distorted my statements in an interview to New York Times on June 24. Through misleading headlines an impression is sought to be created that I have misgivings about the efficacy of condoms or that I have a moral problem with condoms.

This is apart from the fact because for the past two decades I have been stressing the need for safe sex using a combination of condoms and discipline which is in line with the Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom (ABC) line of UNAIDS which has yielded great success in Uganda and now forms part of the anti-AIDS campaigns of several countries.

Apart from stressing the need for safe sex, I have also laid the foundations of a robust voluntary blood donation system throughout the country which would ensure safety as well as access to quality blood, thereby preventing transmission of the HIV virus through contaminated blood transfusions.

On June 14, which is observed as World Blood Donors Day, I personally donated blood at New Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and gave all citizens a call to donate blood throughout the year so that the annual deficit of 2-3 million units could be bridged. Any experienced NGO activist knows that condoms sometimes break while being used. That is why government campaigns in India, whether through the National Aids Control Organisation or the state governments, should focus on safe sex as a holistic concept, which includes highlighting the role of fidelity to single partners.

I am critical of reports that sought to draw a connection between my statement and the criminalisation of same sex in India. This matter is beyond the domain of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. I have said that the tradition of preserving the institution of marriage governs relevant government legislations. Even the law on divorce insists on attempts at reconciliation and suggest recourse to separation only in the last resort. The culture of regarding husband and wife as halves of a whole should be upheld in the modern age where one sees all-round crumbling of values.

My statement on informing people on the supremacy of fidelity as an AIDS prevention measure is not only a piece of cultural advice but also a scientific one. So as Minister of Health I find it justified to include this simple message in the communication strategy of the government’s anti-AIDS programmes. Condoms promise safe sex, but the safest sex is through faithfulness to one’s partner. Prevention is always better than cure.

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