This paper discusses the importance of continuous sexual health education in our schools and communities. The ongoing education of sexual health behaviors plays an important role in lowering the rates of sexually transmitted infections and early pregnancies in the adolescent period. Five published articles are referenced to support the great demand for sexual health teaching to this particular group.
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The role of the school, along with the community as a whole, is further discussed in regards to continuing this accurate and reflective education. The variety of methods use, and the need for culturally and socially appropriate interventions are additionally addressed. The out-of-school adolescent population and those with poor attendance are also referred to as being a significant statistic in the sexually transmitted infection and premature pregnancy rates. This paper speaks of the positive and progressive changes that can ultimately come from the education of sexual health.
Keywords: sexual health education, sexually transmitted infection rates, adolescent population
The Demand for Continuous Sexual Health Education and Their Effects on Sexually Transmitted Infection and Adolescent Pregnancy Rates
There is a great demand for sexual health education regarding preventative measures for sexually transmitted infections and premature pregnancies in the adolescent age. Common myths and inaccurate beliefs that are spread through media and social interactions should be addressed and replaced with precise information. Education and interventions sponsored by schools and community centers regarding sexual behavior greatly improve the likelihood of lowering the rates of sexually transmitted infections and early pregnancies in the youth.
The role of the school and community centers are significant when it comes to the education of the youth on sexual behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the 15-24 age group accounts for half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted infections that occur in the United States every year. This particular age group reports learning most of their sexual education from peers and numerous social media outlets. Common myths or distorted facts regarding sexual behavior, especially during the adolescent stage, are spread through unreliable origins, such as other peers and internet resources. The education provided in schools or other programs help cease these inaccurate ideas. Almeida, Correa, Rolim, Hora, Lindard, Coutinho, et al. (2017) further explain that secondary to the role of the school, the participation of the guardians and family in the education of sexual behavior is acknowledged, as well. Since a number of parents choose not to participate in this private aspect of their children’s lives, it is necessary for schools and professional instructors to take on this responsibility to provide a safer and more sexually conscience youth (Almeida et al., 2017, p. 1035). Along with educators in schools, health professionals in the medical field, such as nurses, doctors, and therapists, carry the responsibility to inform and accurately care for the sexual health of all patients. It is vital to inform adolescents, in particular, of their rights, risks, and the many prevention intervention options regarding their sexual health.
Along with being exposed to this information through a community or school-based program, repetitive and continuous education is also important. Adolescents develop and grow sexually, experiencing more as time progresses. A specific program in Canada called Sexual Health Education, or SHE, has been associated with numerous positive outcomes. According to Byers, Hamilton, and Fisher (2017), the more education a person receives, the more likely he or she is to retain and fully understand the information provided compared to a single exposure. Byers et al. (2017) further stress the importance of evaluating the number of times and in which particular grade these adolescents receive sexual health education (Byers et al., 2017, p. 186). Keeping track of the progression of this education for each particular grade is important, just as it would be important to continuously learn and review information as we do with other subjects.
Art based interventions can also help adolescents understand the value of sexual education. It’s very important for these interventions to be culturally appropriate due to differing values and preconceived notions regarding sexual input among the various cultural groups in and out of schools. Lys, Logie, and Okumu (2018) believe that an open and culturally appropriate environment should influence the youth to modify their behavior and encourage them to make future informed sexual health decisions. It is crucial to provide a welcoming environment for students to share private information regarding their sexual knowledge and practices (Lys et al., 2018, pg 984). Covering topics of particular interest of the students helps maintain their attention and cease common myths regarding sexual education. Using methods, such as role-playing, lectures, and anonymous student questions helps create a comfortable environment for the students to learn in. Students may not always feel comfortable outright asking questions regarding sexual behavior to their professor. An alternate and more comfortable method of learning is to submit anonymous questions and have the teacher read and answer each one during class time.
Along with using a variety of methods to explain and teach adolescents about sexual behavior, incorporating a variety of topics concerning sexual health is just as significant. Topics that should be covered include different sexually transmitted infections, the use and different types of contraceptives, and other forms of sexual behavior, particularly those explored in the adolescent stage. Education on the use of female condoms can help empower women to take charge of their sexual life, instead of relying on the males to provide a form of contraception, such as the more commonly used male condom or the withdrawal method. Providing pictures of sexually transmitted infections may deter adolescents from partaking in sexual behavior and help encourage them to make appropriate sexual behavior decisions.
Sexual education should be addressed to all students enrolled in school, as well as those not enrolled. There should always be material and educational opportunities available in areas with and without clinics. Shaw et al. (2016) stress the need to target the out-of-school adolescent population regarding accessible care and education on sexual health. School attendance has been associated with lower sexually transmitted infection and premature pregnancy rates. Therefore, an aim to address those who do not attend school is also necessary for providing thorough education to the entire adolescent population (Shaw et al., 2016, p. 7). There is an even greater demand for sexual education in lower income areas which needs to be addressed, as well. Based on statistics, lower income areas tend to see increased rates of sexually transmitted infections and early, unwanted pregnancy rates. The adolescents in foster care and those who are homeless need to be accounted for, as well. Campa, Leff, and Tufts (2018) address the fact that adolescents who may have social and economic issues are more likely to have a lower attendance record in school, which then translates into decreased educational opportunities. The specific needs of lower income populations must be attended to in order to provide an extensive educational perspective on sexual health behavior (Campa et al., 2018, p. 532).
Overall, interventions and programs aimed at educating the youth on sexual behavior improves the sexual choices of adolescents as represented by the rates of sexually transmitted infections and adolescent pregnancy rates. These statistics should be continued to be monitored and assessed further to provide more accurate data and results regarding the efficacy of these sex education programs being implemented in schools and communities.
Lys, C. L., Logie, C. H., & Okumu, M. (2018). Pilot testing Fostering Open eXpression among Youth (FOXY), an arts-based HIV/STI prevention approach for adolescent women in the Northwest Territories, Canada. International Journal of STD & AIDS, 29(10), 980-986.
Byers, E. S., Hamilton, L. D., & Fisher, B. (2017). Emerging adults experiences of middle and high school sexual health education in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 26(3), 186-195.
Almeida RAAS, Corr??a RGCF, Rolim ILTP, Hora JM, Linard AG, Coutinho NPS, et al. (2017) Knowledge of adolescents regarding sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. Rev Bras Enferm. 2017; 1033-9.
Shaw, Y. Souradet, et al. (2016). Teen clinics: missing the mark? Comparing pregnancy andsexually transmitted infections rates among enrolled and non-enrolled adolescents. International Journal for Equity in Health. 15:95, 7.
Campa, Leff, and Tufts. (2018). Reaching High-Need Youth Populations With Evidence-Based Sexual Health Education in California. Supplement 1, 2018, Vol 108, No. S1, 532.
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