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Ahern promises to tackle stigma around AIDS.


Paul O' Brien The Government will launch a national campaign to combat the stigma surrounding people with Aids/Hiv later this year. The Taoiseach made the announcement when he addressed the United Nations general assembly in New York yesterday. "If we succeed in reversing this epidemic, we must also tackle the stigma and discrimination associated with it," Mr Ahern said. "Political leaders have to work to make our societies more open, more caring, more inclusive and non-judgemental."

"We plan to do more to deal with this issue in Ireland and as a first step, we will have a national campaign to combat stigma and descrimination against people infected with HIV, coinciding with World Aids Day on Dec 1.

There was warm applause for Mr Ahern when he made the announcement. He was one of several speakers addressing the assembly on the last day of this weeks's high level meeting on HIV and AIDS. The meeting was called to review the progress made by member states on the commitments they made at a UN summit in 2001 to tackle the epidemic.

Mr Ahern told the assembly Ireland had "more than lived up" to it's commitments.When he addressed the assembly in 2001, he pledged the Govenment would spend 30 million a year on the fight against HIV/AIDS. In fact, the Government spent an average of 50 million in each of the last 5 years and yesterday he pledged to double that figure. "From this year forward, I pledge that our spending on HIV and other communicable diseases will increase to at least 100 million per year" he said.

Since the 2001 summit, more than 30 million men, women and children had been infected with HIV and more than 3 million had died from AIDS related diseases, Mr Ahern said. And HIV did not respect borders he stressed, pointing out the EU and it's neighbours had one of the fastest growing infection rates in the world. "The fight against AIDS remains one of the greatest challenges of our generation. We will be judged by the generosity of our response and by the strength of our leadership" he said.

Laws may see more single mothers by Mary Regan The new laws aimed at closing the loophole on statutory rape will prevent young fathers from taking responsibility for their children leaving hundreds of single teenage mothers, according to the Women's Health Council. Under the new Criminal law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006, boys under the age of 17 will be criminalised if they have sexual intercourse, even if it is consensual. But, under section 5 of the bill, girls under 17 will be exempt from prosecution.

This, according to justice minister Michael Mc Dowell, is to ensure girls are not afraid to come forward for prosecution. Each year there are about 600 births from mothers aged between 16 and 17. The WHC claims that under the new legislation these births would provide evidence for the potential prosecution of hundreds of young men.

WHC director Geraldine Luddy said, "In case of pregnancy arising from sexual intercourse between two teenagers under 17, the proposed legislation would ensure that young fathers will avoid any open involvelment with their child for fear of criminalisation. "We are adamant to see legislation being passed that will advocate responsible sexual behaiour rather than automatically criminising teenagers for seeking and receiving the emotional and physical care they need in terms of sexual and reproductive health," she said.

Ms Luddy said that the law's gendered nature amounted to discrimination. IRISH TIMES - SAT 3RD JUNE 2006 Many teenagers ignore legal age of consent Ali Bracken Teenagers will start having sex whenever they want to, regardless of the legal age of consent, accordinig to most teenagers queuing outside Wesley rugby club disco yesterday evening. "You're not supposed to smoke til your 17.., look at him!" said one teenage boy pointing at another. "And you're not supposed to drink til your 18. I just met a girl who could barely walk. Teenagers are going to continue to do exactly how they please."

Most teenagers entering last nights disco were aged 14 to 16 and were well aware of Mr A and the frantic legal rush to bring in new legislation to protect children their age and younger from sex offenders. "Talking about sex has been hard to avoid this week because it's been all over the TV. It's hard to avoid it anyway", said one teenage boy in the queue. Generally most of the girls agreed that the legal age of consent as 17 for both sexes was sensible but not necessarily workable.

"You should decide for yourself. I don't think there can be one age for everyone. If I had to pick I'd say 16." one girl commented as her friends nodded in agreement. The boys however, mostly thought 17 was far too old and completely unrealistic."It should be 14 or 15 because lots of people have sex then," according to one 14yr old boy. Will telling people they're not supposed to have sex until 17 make them want to break that rule? "No, boys will always want to have sex anyway,"he added.

But both sexes largely agreed that it was "unfair, sexist and discriminatory" for a boy under 17 to face charges for having consensual sex with a girl under 17 while she would be protected by the law Except for one 15yr old boy, who took a different view. "Well she's the one who'll get pregnant isn't she? And you shouldn't be allowed to have kids until you can afford to pay for them either," the boy said.

A few girls voiced the opinion that if some teenage boys are faced with the possibility of criminal proscution as a consequence of under age sex then they might stop pressurinsing girls. "Not all boys pressurise but some do. Maybe this would scare them into growing up", one girl speculated.
Most teenagers agreed last night that consensual sex between teenagers aged 15 and up was fine, so long as they were responsible about it.