Sex education: the application of sexual and reproductive rights in the fight against HIV

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Rebeca Feitosa Dória Alves and Renata Carvalho Almeida, currently two third year medical student at Universidade Tiradentes, in Aracaju/Sergipe, Brazil. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Sexual rights refer to the free expression and experience of sexuality without violence, discrimination and impositions and with full respect for the partner’s body. In addition, it guarantees the right to sexual health, which requires access to all types of information, education and confidential high-quality services on sexuality and sexual health. Reproductive rights, on the other hand, comprise the basic right of every couple and individual to decide freely and responsibly on the number, the spacing and the opportunity to have children and to have the information and the means to do so. Sexual and reproductive rights are a means of building good sexual health, but, unfortunately, they are not widely known and applied to everyone. The information is unevenly distributed globally, reflecting alarming data on the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV.

     According to the 2019 Epidemiological Bulletin of HIV/AIDS in Brazil, the highest concentration of AIDS cases in the country was between the ages of 25 and 39, that is, people of reproductive age. Minority groups such as LGBTQI + and black women are also vulnerable. Therefore, the correlation between social roles and sexual education is evident, which is the link between sexual and reproductive rights and HIV.

       It is known that, throughout the history of HIV infections, there was a stigma about the disease due to the context of associated sexual behavior. Chronologically, the taboo has been broken and sexuality has become the subject of academic tables, facilitating communication about the exercise of sexual desires and protection against sexually transmitted infections. Thus, the conception of sexuality and reproducibility is consolidated as fields permeated by rights and self-knowledge.

      Sexual and reproductive rights promote freedom from sexual practice, with respected choices of diversity and privacy, and guide healthy sexuality behavior. These rights will often act through public policies, which will offer information and protection against sexual discrimination. In Brazil, condoms are distributed and access to HIV pre and post sexual exposure prophylaxis free of charge through the Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS), a public health service network. In addition, SUS offers antiretroviral treatment, which enables a reduction in the mortality rate and an increase in the quality of life of HIV + patients.

    Autonomous sexual practices require responsibility to know their own bodies and to promote sexual and reproductive health in the situations experienced. From this, it is possible to understand the relationship between rights and the fight to end HIV. Sexual and reproductive behavior goes beyond the biological character. That is why sexual and reproductive rights are so necessary: ​​they, included in human rights, are intrinsic to everyone, who can enjoy a free expression of their sexuality and dominance over their own bodies, without judgment. For sexual and reproductive rights to reach more groups, social institutions will play a big role. Schools, political organizations and the media must discuss sexual rights in order to reach the most diverse groups. Understanding the social situation surrounding sexual practice will be a tool for HIV control.

About the author

Rebeca Feitosa Dória Alves and Renata Carvalho Almeida are currently a third year medical student at Universidade Tiradentes, in Aracaju/Sergipe, Brazil. They are members of the International Federation of Medical Students Association in Brazil (IFMSA-BRAZIL) and believe that sex education and and the application of sexual and reproductive rights can positively transform HIV statistics.

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