Our nation’s youth are experiencing interconnected and preventable health problems including: HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy. These health issues are largely the result of preventable health risk behaviors.
Young people need information, skill development and guidance on how to recognize, avoid or prevent risky sexual behaviors. An integrated educational preventative program addressing sexual health, HIV, other STDs and pregnancy can equip students with the knowledge, skills and motivation to delay initiation of sex and prepare them for a lifetime of optimal sexual and reproductive health.
Open, honest communication is vital for promoting sexually healthy behavior.
Adolescents who participate in risky sexual behavior increase the possibility they will face unintended health outcomes:
- 47 percent of all high school students reported having had sexual intercourse in 2013.
- 273,105 babies were born to teen girls aged 15-19 in 2013.
- Approximately 10,000 youth aged 13-24 were diagnosed with HIV infection in the US in 2013.
- In 2010, young gay and bisexual men accounted for an estimated 19 percent (8,800) of all new HIV infections in the US and 72 percent of new HIV infections among youth.
- Nearly half of all new STD diagnoses are acquired by young people aged 15-24, and 1 in 4 sexually active teen females has an STD.
Working together with families and communities, schools can help ensure that the knowledge, attitudes and skills learned by students promote responsible decision-making and behavior, and enable students to transition to a healthy and productive adulthood.
Schools can support adolescents’ sexual health by:
- Adopting and implementing age, developmentally and culturally appropriate curricula that is medically accurate and grounded in evidence-based practice;
- Providing access or referrals to adequate health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, school nurses and mental health professionals;
- Recognizing and addressing the needs of traditionally underserved populations, including students with disabilities, minorities, pregnant and parenting adolescents, and those who identify themselves as lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender or questioning (LBGTQ); and
- Providing a safe and supportive school environment that is free of violence, harassment, intimidation and bullying.
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