LetsStopAIDS report: Canadian youth unhappy with sex-ed

LetsStopAIDS report: Canadian youth unhappy with sex-ed

By Interesting Engineering


October 23, 2023

Teacher writing on a chalkboard teaching about SexEd

Many students polled resort to the internet for information due to the inadequate education provided in classrooms.

Recently, a national survey conducted by LetsStopAIDS, a youth-driven Canadian charity aiming to raise awareness about HIV, found that Canadian youth are dissatisfied with the quality of sexual education they received.

The findings were derived from 1,090 Canadians aged between 18 and 24 represented in the LetsStopAIDS Sex Lives Report 2023.

LetsStopAIDS–a Toronto-based think tank aimed to understand the youth’s relationship with their sexuality, knowledge of HIV and sexually transmitted infection prevention, and experiences with sex education through the survey. 

Traditional methods hinder sex-education

"Our findings were loud and clear,” ​​Gabrial Brown, a research analyst at LetsStopAIDS, told CBC's Edmonton AM. “The conventional methods of addressing sexuality are obsolete, more so in today's age that values equality, diversity, and respect."

The findings implied that traditional methods of addressing sexuality in classrooms, for instance, were outdated and stressed that a more comprehensive and positive approach to sexual education is needed. 

Brown noted that although sex education supplied students with a wealth of scientific information, it significantly lacked practical knowledge and skills, leaving those surveyed with unresolved queries.

Alluding to sex education, the report asserted that abundant scientific information on topics such as anatomy, pregnancy, and STIs was provided, but the classes heavily lacked practical knowledge or skills that could be applied in real life. Two out of three young Canadians surveyed felt that sex-ed did not prepare them for sex.

For example, the respondents believed that the sex-ed curriculum was stigmatized and “abstinence-focused,” which may have originated from teachers' discomfort with the topic of sex.

Key findings

Additionally, less than five percent of respondents recalled being taught about other main HIV prevention methods, such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) in their sex-ed classes.

The report found that 19 percent of Canadian youth also recollected learning about gender identity, while 37 percent felt that sex-ed mainly emphasized abstinence.

Findings also noted a significant decrease in condom usage since 2020. A total of 33 percent of sexually active Canadian youth mentioned not using condoms during sex in the past six months. 

The percentage of youth who consistently used condoms during intercourse dropped from 53 percent in 2020 to 23 percent in 2023.

Even though platforms such as TikTok and Instagram are widely used, only a limited percentage of young respondents–19 percent and 15 percent, respectively relied on social media platforms for sexual health information. 

Instead, many resorted to the internet for information due to the inadequate education provided in classrooms.

Regarding STI and HIV testing, a significant 80 percent of young Canadians did not undergo regular testing in the past six months. Although, 27 percent of young Canadians diagnosed with STI(s) and/or HIV did not receive necessary treatment.

Finn St Dennis, a research and evaluation manager for the Queer and Trans Health Collective in Edmonton, expressed that the findings of the report did not come as a surprise. 

He cited the report, saying that many issues discussed are seen in Edmonton because of differences in sex education. The Queer and Trans Health Collective hears about these challenges from community members who face similar problems as their straight and cisgender peers.

"They're also facing additional barriers when you have teachers that aren't teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity, and aren't necessarily comfortable or prepared to have those conversations," the report stated.

The report was initiated to enable improved communication with the government to improve sex-ed curriculum in Canada, according to Brown. CBC stated that without the engagement, young Canadian individuals will continue to experience rising STI rates and retain knowledge gaps about sex. 

Brown said: "It's such a crucial and dire situation. This is a real problem we need to address in Canada."

View full report here.

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