‘Incorporate sexual health in education system holistically’

Malaysia must push for sexual health to be incorporated in the education system in a holistic manner to ensure the provision of sexual health is accessible to all.

Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia (FRHAM) chairman, Associate Professor Dr Kamal Kenny Saravanan said it is imperative for all agencies working towards this goal to be on the same page.

“The current system seems to have many stumbling blocks when the issue of sexual health is advocated,” said Kamal.

“People shy away, and that results in the younger generation not being able to get the most accurate knowledge.”

Established in 1958, FRHAM is the leading, service based, non-profit organisation in Malaysia advocating and promoting sexual and reproductive health, including family planning and reproductive rights of women, men, and young people. It believes that Malaysians must have access to information and services on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Kamal said it was critical to push the agenda at this stage because the rate of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) among young adults is on the rise. He added the pandemic also revealed that many children had fallen prey to online predators.

“As such, the agenda of a comprehensive sexual education is crucial, and needs to be pushed forward,” he said.

While sexual health is still often considered taboo, Kamal said the only way to dispel the stigma surrounding it was for the public to be educated – that sexual health awareness was for people to be equipped with the knowledge to keep them safe, and not to promote sexual promiscuity.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines sexual health as a state of physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity.

More than 1 million sexually-transmitted infections are recorded every day. In 2020, WHO estimated there were 374 million new STIs: chlamydia (129 million), gonorrhoea (82 million), syphilis (7.1 million) and trichomoniasis (156 million).

Separately, FRHAM recently organised a roundtable forum to raise awareness of positive and psychosocial health. The session was in collaboration with DTAP Clinic. It was initiated by HealthForum 360 and supported by PT Foundation and the Malaysia Global Business Forum.

During the forum, DTAP Clinic director, Dr G. Kaarthig, said the roundtable was part of the clinic’s efforts to raise the understanding of positive sexual health in a structured and comprehensive manner in the education curriculum, as a means to avoid STIs and unwanted pregnancies.

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