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Kerala state-board shocker: HIV spreads via premarital or extramarital sexual contact, says science textbook

A Kerala state-board science textbook from Class 10 asks what the different ways are through which HIV spreads, followed by the erroneous claim that the virus can be transmitted from an infected to a healthy person through "premarital or extramarital sexual contact."

The textbook accurately says that sharing a needle or syringe with an AIDS patients, exchanging bodily fluids and fluids from an HIV-positive mother to a foetus are other ways by which the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can be transmitted.

However, instead of unprotected sex with an HIV-positive partner, the textbook specifically identifies just "premarital or extramarital" sex as a method by which the virus is passed on. An image of the page, along with a red circle around the incorrect claim was posted on social media by Dr Arun, a practitioner of general medicine in Kerala’s Palakkad district, on Monday.

 Kerala state-board shocker: HIV spreads via premarital or extramarital sexual contact, says science textbook

An illustration from an SCERT science textbook. image: Twitter

"How does the virus know whether the couple is married or not?" Dr Arun asked, according to The News Minute report.

The mistake was published in a 2016 edition of the Science textbook published by the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT).

A SCERT official said that the newer (June 2019) edition of the textbook will have corrected the mistake, the report said.

"We have identified the mistake and have taken measures to make the necessary changes in the upcoming academic year," a researcher officer of SCERT told TNM. The researcher added that the textbook claims were not how the students were taught about HIV transmission.

False information and serious errors have often been found in Indian textbooks, especially in chapters concerning sex education.

An internationally-famous example of an Indian textbook getting in trouble for propagating what could be considered animal abuse. Image courtesy: Federation of Animal Protection Organisation

An internationally-famous example of an Indian textbook getting in trouble for propagating what could be considered animal abuse. Image courtesy: Federation of Animal Protection Organisation

Last year, a Class 10 Gujarat state-board textbook claimed that "masterbation [masturbation] is one type of copulation". The textbook also uses the word "menstruation" instead of masturbation in another case, stating, "Menstruation is one non-harmful and safe copulation process through which youngsters are saved from the infection of HIV/AIDS, as well as any sexual diseases."

A Gujarat SCERT official responded at the time saying that errors are inevitable since the board deals with hundreds of textbooks simultaneously. We will keep rectifying those mistakes, he added.

HIV is an infection by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) if left untreated.

The virus targets the human immune system. Particularly, it attacks a subset of immune cell called 'T cells' which act as the body's ultimate defence against infections, along with its many other roles in immunity.

Common ways that you can or cannot contract an HIV infection. Image courtesy: Avert.org

Common ways that you can or cannot contract an HIV infection. Image courtesy: Avert.org

Most often, HIV is transmitted through anal or vaginal sex with someone that has HIV or sharing syringes with someone who has HIV. What's more, not all kinds of bodily fluids can transmit HIV. The virus can only be passed on through blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk.

Insect bites; fluids like saliva, sweat and tears; hugging, shaking hands or sharing personal spaces or objects such as bathrooms, food or cooking utensils are few of the many ways the virus cannot be passed from person to person.

India has around 2.1 million HIV-positive people — one of the largest in the world. Sex education has been a controversial topic that Indian schools have been reluctant to be proactive about. Educating children with correct and factual information about sexual health and safe sex is a key part of tackling sexually-transmitted diseases, HIV among them, in the country.

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Updated Date: Mar 06, 2019 11:58:41 IST

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