Claim linking sex equity education in Taiwan with STDs refuted

Misleading information linking sex ed, same-sex marriage to STI epidemic in Taiwan circulating on Internet

Infographic about STDs in Taiwan proved misleading, (@dontlietoallofus Facebook photo) 

Infographic about STDs in Taiwan proved misleading, (@dontlietoallofus Facebook photo) 

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwan FactCheck Center (TFC) has debunked an infographic made by an anti-homosexuality group, asserting that sexual equity education at school and same-sex marriage have not led to a spike in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among youth in Taiwan.

On Tuesday (Jan. 14), the TFC published a report targeting an infographic circulating on the Internet that claims cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV have been rising since the country introduced sex equity education in schools in 2004, and the number surged once same-sex marriage was passed in Taiwan after "the mainstream media began touting same-sex relationships in recent years."

The line chart depicts an increasing incidence of syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV among Taiwanese youth aged 15 to 24, stating that the infections have affected males the most and that sex between men accounts for 80 percent of HIV transmission.

In response, the TFC referred to data from the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, pointing out that confirmed cases of syphilis and HIV have been decreasing since 2016. It added that even though males account for more confirmed cases of gonorrhea and syphilis than females, it is because the symptoms tend to be more obvious in males than in females upon infection, thus the former tend to seek treatment more often.

"Sex equity education in Europe has also been proven to reduce the HIV transmission instead of contributing to it," said Fang Chi-tai (方啟泰), a professor at National Taiwan University's College of Public Health. He pointed out that in while Catholic-majority Philippines emphasizes traditional values, the HIV outbreak is out of control without the implementation of sex equity education, according to the medical journal The Lancet.

An associate professor at the Graduate Institute of Gender Education at National Kaohsiung Normal University, Yang Chia-ling (楊佳羚), told the TFC that multiple global studies indicate that the more sex education is taught at schools, the later teenagers will have their first sexual encounter. It has also been shown to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs.

Both experts also said that the Taiwanese government generally focuses on the gay community when it promotes safe sex and HIV tests, so it is natural that this group comprises the largest percentage of confirmed HIV cases. People outside the gay community, regardless of gender, who engage in unsafe sex are much more vulnerable to HIV.