No sex education please - we're Polish

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The Independent Online
POLAND'S Education Ministry has strongly condemned a British booklet on Aids that was to be distributed in Polish secondary schools, complaining that it concentrates too much on condoms.

The award-winning booklet, Aids and You, produced by the British Medical Association and widely used in British schools, contains illustrations of sexual intercourse and the ways in which the HIV virus which leads to Aids can be spread. It contains pictures showing how to use condoms.

When officials at the Polish Health Ministry first saw the booklet, they thought it was ideal for sex education in secondary schools and, for 1bn zlotys ( pounds 42,000) commissioned a translation and an initial print run of 200,000 copies.

Their counterparts at the Education Ministry - many belonging to the conservative Christian National Union (ZChN) - thought otherwise and pronounced the booklet unsuitable for children. Krystyna Czuba, a ministry spokeswoman, said the main objections concerned the 'purely technical' way sex was depicted, the absence of concepts of 'love and responsibility' and the presentation of the condom as 'the only solution in Aids prevention'.

Education Ministry officials are furiously working on their own booklet, which is likely to emphasise chastity and natural methods of contraception. 'We want to present a much broader picture,' said Ms Czuba. 'The Aids and You booklet is all right for specialists and adults, but not as a starting point for children.'

The ministry's stance has horrified Polish health workers, worried that, although officially there are only 2,600 people who are HIV-positive in Poland, the unofficial number of Aids sufferers has soared since the collapse of Communist rule in 1989.

'Young people need open and informative booklets such as these to be able to combat Aids effectively,' said Mikolaj Kozakiewicz, a professor of sociology and former MP. 'True information can never be harmful; limiting access to the truth can be.' He believes the row over the booklet - which on its release in 1987 won an award from the Plain English Campaign - shows how the Catholic church is trying to increase its influence.

The influential ZChN was behind last year's tough anti- abortion law. 'Their views on sexuality are just unbelievable,' said Prof Kozakiewicz. 'They seriously think that, in the late 20th century, the most important thing is to teach young people to be chaste.'