Population planning and AIDS education

The current size of the human population has grown beyond the carrying capacity of the earth. Nevertheless, the population would double by 2050 even if we manage to maintain with the current population growth rate of 1.6%.

Human population grows in a geometric pattern as evident from the fact that it took from the beginning of time to the year 1810 to reach 1 billion people which doubled in another 100 years. By 1974, the population reached 4 billion, doubling within a period of some 60 years. Another billion people were added by 1987. By October 12, 1999 the world population is reaching 6 billion which is expected to swell to 7 billion by 2015 and 9.4 billion by 2050!

Population boom is further complicated with the growing epidemic of incurable sexually-transmitted disease, AIDS. Since the first case of the disease reported in 1984, world's 30.6 million (1.1 million children and infants) population have, so far, been detected to get infected with the fatal disease, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa followed by industrialized countries and Latin America and the Caribbean. Since the start of the global epidemic in 1970s, about 11.7 million people have died of AIDS, including 2.7 million children. It is noteworthy that children and adolescents are more vulnerable to HIV infection.

Studies, primarily in the industrialized countries, have indicated that about 60% of adults infected by HIV will develop AIDS within 12-13 years of becoming infected whereas progression of the disease is observed more rapid in developing countries as it is compounded with tuberculosis. Survival after the onset of AIDS is estimated by UNAIDS to be about 3 years in the industrialized countries and 1 year in developing countries. About 75-85% of the adult HIV infections worldwide are transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse. The virus continues to spread rapidly, causing 16,000 more infections daily.

“I think it would be good for me to learn more about AIDS, especially as in the area where my school is situated almost all the people are dead. You find beautiful houses standing alone. People are buried in banana plantations, and others, if they know they have AIDS, may commit suicide. I would like to advise my age group and fellow students about it,” wrote 17-year old Judith Oyella to WHO Global Program on AIDS. Judith’s school is located in Rakai district of Uganda which has one of the highest rates of AIDS in the world!

Nepal has experienced a tragic story which has gone unnoticed. As the country shares open border with India, tens of thousands of youths leave for India in search of employment and brings in sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV on their return unknowingly, and transmit them to their wives and newborn infants.

Similarly, some 250,000 Nepali girls are smuggled out for flesh trade in the brothels in India. They are kicked out by the brothel owners, and escorted to the Nepal border by the Indian administration as soon as they were found infected with HIV or full-blown AIDS.

To overcome the situation, Movement Millennium realized that an integrated campaign for population planning (not control alone) and AIDS education seems inevitable. Experiences and experiments in the developing world indicated that wider prevalence of contraceptives alone could not ensure family planning nor promote condom use unless women in the community are empowered with the forceful endorsement of their right to conceive and they have access to health, education, nutrition and reduction in work burden; gender bias eliminated; and the cycle of poverty broken so as to induce a newer sense of population planning to replace the old mindset of “more children, more workers.” Also, it is important to avoid “just-sterilize-them-all-in-the-developing-countries” attitude. Promote education, instead.

What can you do?

  1. Write to your elected representatives, urging to formulate legislation to fund population planning and education, develop and distribute contraceptives, empower women, and fund poverty alleviation programs.
  2. Urge local government for setting up a round-the-clock clearinghouse and helpline for promoting small family practices and safer sex.
  3. Press people to avoid multiple sex partners. Use religious verses to convince them. If inevitable, distribute and urge them to use condoms which you can collect free from the nearest health center. Fight against the myth about the disease. HIV is transmitted by means of contaminated blood transfusion, multiple sex partners, sharing of needles. Tell people that it won't pass onto others by hugging the victims, through insect or mosquito bites or by sharing utensils. Commiserate AIDS and HIV victims. Give them love and care.
  4. Design a population education program for your community by gathering some like-minded family-members, friends and youths.

    An important rule of education is that it should be exciting. The storing of information in memory banks is not. Present the controversial issues and alternatives in an honest way, stimulating interest, not increasing apathy and fatalism. Go beyond simple descriptions of the population crisis or demographic explanations of increasing population size compounded with aids epidemic. Involve people by means of survey and self-tax campaigns.

    The Population Activist's Handbook suggests to consider the following demographic factors before launching such a program:

      • If population refers to more than fertility control, what does “population” mean? Identify specific issues in relation to the individual, the community, the nation and the world.
      • What social structures and stresses affect family size? Employment opportunities? The changing role of women?
      • Are family patterns changing, and if so, what is the effect of these changes on growing elderly populations and alternative family styles?
      • What is the role of family planning in population programs? Is it effective in limiting population growth? Should family planning encourage people to have only the number of children they want, no matter how large the number is?
      • What forms of family planning services have priority in your community or school? Contraception? Abortion? Sterilization services?
      • What factors determine where people live? Are these variables consciously planned for optimum population distribution? What is “optimum population distribution”?
      • Do international economic and political structures affect population size? Can these structures be manipulated? How and by whom?
      • What is the potential impact of zero population growth on national and local economies?
      • Does a no-growth population mean that we must adapt to a no-growth economy?
      • What are the components of a good and successful sex education program? What realistic objectives should be set for these programs?
      • What is the difference between population education and sex education? What is the purpose of an integrated sex and population education (italics mine)?
      • How does population growth—as opposed to population distribution—affect our environmental quality?
  5. Contact the institutions active in population and AIDS education programs in your community or country. They could furnish abundance of materials and ideas for further action. There are also a broad spectrum of international organizations, operational in integrated sex and population education.
  6. Send us with the details of your on-going or new programs by duly filling-in the Event Sheet to the address below for publication in Global Breakthrough and evaluation for awards. Also, provide newspaper clippings and other publicity materials, if any.