September 12, 2003
Despite years of public health campaigns, a new study shows Canadian teenagers know less about safe sex now than they did in 1989. "We would have hoped that today, in 2003, teens would know more about [sexually transmitted] diseases. But despite all the information available, we're realizing that teens aren't necessarily assimilating it," said researcher Dr. Christian Fortin.
Coordinated by the Council of Ministers of Education, the Canadian Youth, Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Study is a broader update of a 1989 study that focused on STDs. The study questioned more than 11,000 7th, 9th and 11th grade students about sex, drugs, parents, and school.
The study revealed that teens of both genders are less likely to report having had multiple partners than teens of the recent past. More boys are postponing sexual intercourse, with about 20 percent in 9th grade and 40 percent in 11th grade reporting they have had sex at least once -- a decline of about 8 percent from 1989.
One of the most alarming findings, according to Fortin, was that half of 9th graders believed AIDS could be cured if treated early.
These responses come at a time when STD rates are highest among 15- to 24-year-olds, according to Health Canada. In 2000, girls ages 15-19 made up about 40 percent of the national chlamydia and gonorrhea infection cases reported.
Fortin said the study shows that sex education must become more of a priority in schools. "This information must be integrated into the curriculum, or else we're losing an extraordinary opportunity to do prevention," said Fortin.
09.10.2003; Allison Lampert