As an alternative to riskier sexual practices, oral sex could prevent thousands of young South Africans from dying of Aids, loveLife’s CEO David Harrison said on Thursday.
He was reacting to Deputy President Jacob Zuma’s statement in Parliament this week that oral sex was ”wrong” and ”unnatural”.
Zuma in turn was commenting on loveLife material advising that young people ”could also try oral sex, which is sucking, licking and kissing a person’s genitals”.
Harrison said the material, carried under the thethaNathi logo in daily newspapers, was an attempt to encourage young people who were already sexually active to stop having penetrative sex.
Half of all South Africans had had full penetrative sex by the time they were 16 years old, he said.
”And this is driving the HIV epidemic. This is what is causing literally thousands of lives to be lost.
”If we can stop young people having penetrative sex — even if we can’t turn them into saints — we will change the course of this epidemic.”
He said loveLife was a public health organisation, drawing on the best epidemiological evidence to determine what was going to change the course of the Aids epidemic, and conveying that to young people.
”We try to make them aware of the risks of certain forms of sexual behaviour,” Harrison said.
”If we can move them from high risk to medium or lower risk sexual behaviour, we are going to save a lot of lives.”
LoveLife made it clear there were significant risks of HIV transmission associated with oral sex.
”But hey, at the end of the day if young people have to choose between oral sex and full unprotected penetrative sex, oral sex is most likely going to save their lives.”
Harrison said there was a place for moral judgements and confirmation of societal values, but this was the role of faith-based organisations, politicians and sectors of society playing a different role to loveLife.
LoveLife’s task was to outline to young people what choices they had and the health risks associated with those choices, not to make choices for them.
Their decisions would be determined by the values inculcated through their families and influences such as faith-based organisations.
Harrison added that Zuma’s high-profile involvement in loveLife’s current national campaign to get parents to talk openly to their children about sex had had a major impact.
He knew this partly from an anecdotal level, but also from formal research, which showed a ”high degree of association” by parents with the campaign’s message.
He said that while the thethaNathi material was loveLife’s, a teachers’ ”manual” that African Christian Democratic Party MP Cheryllyn Dudley also read from in Parliament when she challenged Zuma on oral sex, was not.
According to Dudley, the manual said it was ”essential for children by at least Grade Six to have a clear understanding of the exact mechanics of how to give a female an orgasm, including how a female or a male can give a woman oral sex”.
LoveLife describes itself as a ”lifestyle brand” for young South Africans, promoting healthy living and positive sexuality.
Its programmes are implemented by a consortium of non-government organisations, and funded largely by the Kaiser and Gates foundations. – Sapa