Programmes to impart sexuality education to young people are more cost-effective when integrated and mandatory, according to the findings of a United Nations study released today at a symposium in New York.

The cost per learner in well established programmes ranged from $6.90 in Nigeria to $32.80 in the Netherlands, while smaller pilot programmes in Kenya and Indonesia indicated significantly higher costs, according to the result of a six-country study released by the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) on Education of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

“We now have the data and analysis to make a stronger and better informed case for investing in school-based sexuality education programmes, particularly in those countries most affected by the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic and prioritized for attention in the new UNAIDS Strategy 2011-2015,” said Mark Richmond, UNESCO’s Global Coordinator for HIV and AIDS, in a statement announcing the findings of the study, whose full details will be released next month.

“This landmark study gives an economic basis to our belief in sexuality education as a key platform for HIV prevention amongst children and young people in the years to come,” he added.

According to UNESCO, fewer than 40 per cent of young men and women across the world are well informed about HIV/AIDS and how the disease in transmitted.

Discussions at today’s symposium were based on the International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education, first published by UNESCO in 2009 and developed jointly with other UN agencies. The document outlines the rationale for sexuality education and provides technical advice on the subjects to be covered and the intended goals.

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