Children of HIV-affected parents will be primary target group

As the importance of sex education is being debated all over, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has sanctioned a project to study sexual integrity among adolescent children.

The two-year research project will be executed through Department of Applied Research of Gandhigram University near here. Children of HIV-affected parents are the primary target group for this study since they are considered to be in greater risk group. A. Thomas William, Associate Professor of Social Science at Arul Anandar College in Karumathur near here, has recently received the postdoctoral research award of the UGC to study sexual integrity. Adolescent children of HIV-infected parents and those in affected families will be covered in various high-prevalence districts such as Madurai, Tiruchi, Theni, Namakkal, Salem, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri.

“We will be doing applied research in this project on the premise of three components — sincerity, honesty and ethics. The outcome of this study shall help in policy level intervention and formulation with regard to HIV prevention and control,” Dr. William told The Hindu on Saturday.

He said that he had chosen Gandhigram University to carry out the study because it has a well-equipped facility for applied research. “Adolescent boys and girls are at much greater risk if their parents are infected.” According to him, there are 1.84 lakh HIV-affected persons in Tamil Nadu as per latest records and 8,000 positive cases being children. “We will meet adolescent children whose parent, either father or mother, is HIV positive. Their response to sexual act and opinion on illegal sex contacts will be studied,” he said.

Assistance of various non-governmental organisations, Positive Networks, Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society and National AIDS Control Organisation would be taken to get statistical data.

Myths about sex and sexual abuse of children would be examined in detail. “Sex education is still a debatable topic for us and cultural barriers prevent us from talking about it with our children. When youngsters get influenced by peer groups, we should find out ways to put them on the path of maintaining sexual integrity,” he said. A grant of Rs.2 lakh been sanctioned for the project. Dr. William had earlier served as chairman of Government Child Welfare Committee for Madurai and Theni districts for about nine years.