Scotland: Teach Schoolchildren About PrEP, The HIV Prevention Drug, Says Major New Report

A major new report from Scotland's largest HIV policy organisation has recommended that pupils in secondary schools are taught about PrEP, the drug regime that prevents HIV.

In a wide-ranging study of both the current state of sex eduction in Scottish schools and the awareness among pupils of sexual health issues, HIV Scotland has also called for the law to be changed so that all schools would have to provide relationship, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education.

Such classes, according to HIV Scotland, should also include "information on LGBT relationships".

"There should be a 21st century understanding of HIV, with resources providing information on the latest HIV prevention and treatment strategies, for example references to the availability of PrEP," the report says.

"There have been significant advances in HIV treatment meaning that people diagnosed with HIV and on effective treatment cannot pass the virus onto others, and the introduction of PreExposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) which can stop people from becoming infected. Lessons must equip young people with this information."

HIV Scotland also called for sexual health professionals to "have a visible presence within schools".

The research, which included an overview of other studies, painted a bleak picture of the level of understanding among young people in Scotland regarding HIV, sex and sexually transmitted infections. Three in five teenagers, for example, said they do not remember receiving any information about HIV in school.

This is despite the fact that every month two Scottish 15-24 year olds are diagnosed with the virus, and many more contract it without knowing. And since 2001, the number of people living with HIV in Scotland has doubled.

A year ago, HIV Scotland organised a roundtable discussion for those involved in sex education to discuss the problems they encounter, the results of which are set out in the report: that there is a lack of consistent monitoring of RSHP classes; insufficient time for teacher training in the subject; LGBT pupils and their needs are being ignored; bullying of LGBT pupils is inadequately combatted; and sex education is not being given proper priority.

In April, the Scottish Medicines Consortium recommended that PrEP be provided by the NHS for all those at risk of contracting HIV, but knowledge of the prevention regime remains low.

The recommendations in HIV Scotland's report were welcomed by a Scottish secondary school teacher, who wished only to be referred to as Simon, and who is living with HIV.

"These are brave and necessary suggestions," he said. "Teaching about HIV and PrEP and how to prevent contracting HIV shouldn't be a brave decision in the 21st century but sadly it is. The issue of HIV prevention has become an incredibly political, loaded target." Read more via Buzzfeed