Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday urged parliamentarians to help create more awareness on issues related to human sexuality considering the social and economic burdens imposed by diseases like HIV/AIDS on the young population.
"I make particular emphasis on the control of AIDS because in our setting, there are still many cultural taboos which prevent the openness in discussions on matters relating to human sexuality," said Manmohan Singh.
Releasing a report on "Person-to-person advocacy with parliamentarians on population issues", the prime minister warned: "If we don't wake up (to the gravity of the issue), this will leave a deep burden on our economy as it affects the most productive sections of our population."
The report highlights that most of the elected representatives interviewed had but scant knowledge about how HIV is transmitted.
Most of the politicians, however, showed better awareness about other sexually transmitted diseases and social ills like large-scale practice of violence against women, gender-based violence and son-preference that are leading to a decline in female sex ratio in many parts of the country.
The report by the Indian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development "brings together some very interesting and provocative material on the perceptions and approach of our elected representatives in a vital area of national policy", the prime minister said.
Focusing on the vital link between reproductive health and the general health of the entire family, the prime minister expressed happiness at the shift in emphasis from population control to reproductive health as also improvement of the health, social and economic status of women with special emphasis on the needs of children.
"The essence of our population policy, must be one of positively transforming people into social and national assets," he said.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest hurdles faced by the policy makers is he misplaced perceptions and ill-informed attitudes, the prime minister said underlining need for parliamentarians to spread "scientific temper" in the country.
He pointed to the recent incidents when people in Mumbai started drinking impure seawater in the blind belief that it had been mysteriously purified.
"People have been drinking that water despite the risks that they attract. All these have emphasized the need for what (late prime minister) Jawaharlal Nehru used to call the cultivation of scientific temper."
Highlighting the success of states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, in effectively meeting some of the health related issues, the prime minister urged other states to emulate them and help in ensuring the success of the National Rural Health Mission.