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Alberta’s place in the global Sex-Ed/STI chain

A new study by the Global Forum on Men Who Have Sex With Men & HIV (MSMGF) was just released showing that less than half of the world’s MSM have easy access to HIV prevention education and tools, with wide variations in access between regions. 

It’s a groundbreaking study that surveyed more than 5,000 MSM from 127 countries in multiple languages about their knowledge of HIV services and prevention strategies.

The results are not terribly surprising. Regions with the lowest level of knowledge about HIV prevention strategies are also the regions where respondents indicated the highest levels of social stigma against homosexuality: Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Latin America. 

Ultimately, the study concludes that more must be done to erase homophobia and increase safer sex education in these regions in order to better combat the spread of HIV.

It’s not just the developing world or even just MSM who need better access to safer sex education. Right here in Canada we’re dealing with a major outbreak of syphilis that’s virtually unheard of in Western countries with strong health care systems. 

Macleans is reporting on a cluster of syphilis cases in Alberta, including tragic cases of congenital syphilis that have left nine infants dead and adult cases of untreated syphilis leading to neurological and heart disorders. Unfortunately, the article’s author has buried the lede under a whistful account of 19th-century dramatist Henrik Ibsen’s syphilis play Ghosts.

Way down in the article’s second-last paragraph, the author gets to the point:

"Others wonder if conservative mores have been part of the drama. ‘Our sex ed is a patchwork, with little strong guidance from the top,’ warns Pam Krause of Calgary’s Sexual Health Centre. ‘People are okay to deal with certain things, but we’re still suffering from a lack of normalization of the harder topics.’ Even medical education in Alberta, she suggests, has allowed Victorian morality to interfere with the struggle for teaching resources.”

Lest we forget, Alberta passed Bill 44 in 2009 forcing teachers to notify parents in advance about any classroom discussions of sex or religion, giving parents the right to opt their children out. Perhaps out of shame, Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky, pictured above, was not recorded as voting on Bill 44. 

And last year, Sexual Health Access Alberta shut its doors.

Given that climate, and the province’s clumsy attempts at syphilis awareness campaigns, is it any wonder sexually transmitted infections are skyrocketing in Alberta?   

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