September 12, 2003
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.
But teenagers who are having sex are having it more frequently, and are doing it with less knowledge of its dangers. About half of 11th graders were unaware that people with STDs may not have any visible symptoms. Almost one-quarter of 9th grade students said they would feel too embarrassed to see a health care provider if they thought they had an STD. And 12-16 percent of students said they did not know where teens were most likely to get condoms.
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
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