Activists in India say the government's reluctance to provide sex education to young people in the country is helping to fuel the spread of HIV in the populous nation. "There is a large population of about 300 million young people in the age group between 12 and 24 in India, and recent studies show their growing preference for premarital sex," said Rakesh Kumar, director of the Center for Health and Development. "The government has no plans for the sexual health education of this group." Many youth in the country have no knowledge of safer-sex practices but are engaging in sex anyway. "Their lack of education about safe-sex norms exposes them to the AIDS trap," Kumar said.
A survey of Bombay youth concluded that 64% of those ages 14 to 19 were no longer virgins and that 43% had visited prostitutes. "Young boys and girls in the age group of between 12 and 24 are most susceptible to unsafe sexual encounters and should be made the target group of government AIDS awareness programs," said activist Aditi Puri. "This is, however, not a government priority. There is no consensus in India over introducing sex and reproductive health education in the school and college syllabus."
Nearly 4 million Indians are estimated to have HIV--the second-highest number in the world behind only South Africa. Health officials predict that China and India, the world's two most populous nations, will soon lead the world in numbers of HIV cases.