Why is sex education barely adequate in our schools?
A third of school leavers admit to being in the dark on how HIV is spread; almost seven out of 10 people say they have not received HIV education at school. Why are we still too ‘British’ to talk to our kids about sex?
A couple of weeks ago, a news story struck a real chord with me.
According to the Centre of Innovative Public Health Research, incredibly, despite the lack of information from school, 20% of people under 18 do get tested for HIV. But there is still a long way to go.
One of the report’s authors, Dr Gregory Phillips II from North Western University in the US made a suggestion, saying: “Providing in-school testing would normalise the process. If there is a constant presence of on-site testing at schools, testing would seem less stigmatised. It would also increase knowledge about the testing process and make it less scary.”
Scary is the word that stuck out to me in that news story.
Teens are scared of HIV testing; is this due to the lack of awareness about how amazing HIV treatments now are? Additionally the Gay Times reports that gay teens are worried about being outed as homosexual if they are found out to have taken an HIV test.
From 2015, it is the law that young people have to be in some form of full time education until the age of 18, but what do they learn about HIV in schools and what can we do to normalise the conversation? What are they so 'scared' of talking about? How much do young people actually know about HIV?
According to MAC AIDS, a third of teenagers don’t know that HIV is a sexually transmitted infection
In the UK a third of people aged between 16 and 24 admit they don’t know how HIV is spread. This age group equates to 12% of the population – that’s 7.4 million people. If a third of these people admit to not fully understanding how HIV is spread, a massive 2.5 million people in this age group alone have not had enough information about HIV.
The National AIDS Trust carried out a study of more than 1,000 men who have sex with men (MSM) aged between 14 and 19. It found a third of respondents (33%) said they had not received any information, advice or support about how HIV is transmitted and how to have safer sex. However, of those who had, 71% had found it either helpful or very helpful.
More than two thirds of respondents (68%) said they had not received any information during sex and relationship education (SRE) about when, where or how to test for HIV.
When respondents were asked what information they would value more of, over half (53%) selected HIV testing, 50% selected ‘what it’s like to live with HIV today’ and 31% said ‘saying no to sex that I don’t want’.
There is a gulf between the information some schools are providing in comparison to others and I want to find out why this is….
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My next blog will seek to get to the bottom of this conundrum, but in the meantime, our website is packed with information, stigma busters and resources on HIV diagnosis, testing, protection and living with HIV. Visit the home page at hivselftest.co.uk for more information.