A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that less than 50% of high schools and 20% of middle schools in the United States are teaching all 16 sexual health topics recommended by the agency.
The agency selects age-appropriate topics in HIV, STDs, pregnancy prevention, and other health subjects for middle and high schools.
“We need to do a better job of giving our young people the skills and knowledge they need to protect their own health,” stated Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention. “It’s important to teach students about healthy relationships and how to reduce sexual risk before they start to have sex.”
The report, 2014 School Health Profiles, shows that the percentage of schools providing sexual health education that meets CDC’s criteria is generally low and varies widely by state.
Among the 44 states examined, Arizona and New Jersey had the lowest and highest rates of high schools teaching sex education, respectively. Only three states – New Jersey, New York, and New Hampshire – have more than 75% of high schools teaching all 16 topics. The proportion of high schools that teach all 16 topics in grade 9, 10, 11, or 12 ranges from 21% to 90%, while the proportion of middle schools teaching all 16 topics in grade 6, 7, or 8 ranges from 4% to 46%, according to the study.
According to CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, the proportion of teens who have ever had sex has remained unchanged for a decade. In 2013, 15% of teens said they had had four or more sexual partners, unchanged from the number in 2003. Nearly 30% of 9th grade students report having had sex.
Teens today are less likely than they were a decade ago to say they used a condom the last time they had sex. Nearly 22% drank alcohol or used drugs the last time they had sex – reflecting no progress in more than two decades, according to a CDC’s statement.
The agency said that it continues to work multiple partners to improve school-based HIV, STD, and pregnancy prevention efforts.