Ireland’s rate of HIV infection is relatively low, according to our 2001 census statistics. However, ten years have passed since then and there has been a massive cultural shift in the country during that time. The age of first sex is dropping steadily and sex education in Irish schools is an unmitigated and disgraceful disaster. In 2009 alone, it was reported that some 74% of Irish children received no sex education whatsoever. At the moment, we can afford to sit comfortably as there has been no great indication of a dramatic increase in rates infection (in fact, last year rates of infection dropped – although this is measured only on numbers of people diagnosed). However, this vacuum of essential teaching, caused, I suspect, by the strong position of power still held by the Catholic Church within the Irish education system, leaves young Irish people vulnerable to diseases they believe they can simply ignore because they’ve never been told otherwise.
I have never seen an ad campaign in Ireland which directly addressed the issue of HIV/AIDS , but I’ll never forget the first time I saw one of the (now famous) ads shown by American music network MTV as part of their ‘Staying Alive’ campaign.
And the French know how to make you squirm too: