Teenager with HIV blasts school sex education

HIVA HIV-positive teenager has hit out at sex education in schools, claiming he learned nothing about the disease whilst at high school and if he had, he might have been more equipped to understand the main risks involved with contracting it.

Luke Alexander, 19, appeared on ITV’s This Morning programme, speaking to Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, called for more awareness about HIV – one year on after being given the devastating diagnosis.

Mr Alexander feels so strongly about the subject he has written an open letter to health secretary Michael Gove, arguing that it should be made compulsory in schools for lessons to be conducted on the virus. The letter was posted online as a petition on the Change.org website, where he claimed that the ‘vast majority of young people today have little or no common knowledge’, of the virus.

He says: “When they diagnosed me last year, my first reaction was “Oh my God, I’m going to die”. I knew it existed but I didn’t know a lot about treatment.”

Mr Alexander added he came out as gay at the tender age of 13 and then was sexually active from the age of 15. After losing his job at 18, his life spiralled out of control as he became dependant on alcohol and drugs, admitting he ‘went off the rails’ during this point.

He became more careless in his sex life yet says he can ‘count on one hand’ the times he has had sex without using a condom – showing it only takes just one occasion of unsafe sex for any sexually transmitted infection to pass from one person to the next.

However, Mr Alexander has criticised the lack of focus on HIV at school and explained the sex education lessons he received mainly focused on the risk of becoming pregnant and contracting chlamydia. He added there should have been more explanation about the importance of wearing condoms to safeguard against the disease as well as other STIs such as genital herpes and gonorrhoea.

“We did talk about condoms,” he said. “But it was more in the context of getting pregnant and bacterial infections. We never really went into anything else. I have always known it was necessary (to use a condom) but it wasn’t stressed (in the context of HIV).”

During a trip to Manchester in April 2013, Mr Alexander began to show the symptoms of the disease. He says: “All of a sudden I came down with a horrific fever, it was very instant, I had sweats and could not sleep. The next thing I knew I was off my food and very, very fatigued. It was awful.”

Then a month later whilst attending a Birmingham Gay Pride event, he was offered a free sexual test, which he duly accepted and thought nothing of it. However, he started to worry when a phone call informed him there was ‘cause for concern’, leading to an agonising five day wait, when the diagnosis was given – he was HIV positive.

Mr Alexander said he did not ‘get the information I felt I needed at the time’ during his high school years.

“Being gay, HIV is up there on the list of things affecting men across the world. We heard a lot about chlamydia and pregnancy but nothing in much depth, the teachers were embarrassed to talk about it. I felt they were speaking about it because they had to, because the government were telling them to. But it left no impression.”

Dr Ranj Singh, who accompanied Mr Alexander on This Morning, commented that stats released by the National Aids Trust last month showed a ‘shockingly low’ level of knowledge about HIV in young gay men – and even worse in older men. Dr Sing added that around 100,000 people in the UK have the virus, but as many as 20,000 are unaware they have it.

A Department of Education spokesman commented: “Pupils must learn about sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS as part of sex and relationship education.”

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