The Local Government Association has warned that inadequate sex education in schools is leading to a ticking public health timebomb, which could cause infertility and other health problems for this generation.
Availability of sex education
State-funded secondary schools are obliged to provide pupils with age-appropriate sex education. However, academies and free schools don’t have to. Additionally, parents can choose to opt their secondary school children out of sex education, if they feel that this is the right option for their child. However, there are no government funded education materials that these opting out parents can use to educate their children themselves.
Whatever the provision has been, statistics have borne out that it just isn’t hitting home hard enough. STI infection rates amongst young people are on the increase, with official figures standing at 78,066 new cases for 15-19 year olds in 2015. The rate for 20-24 year olds was even higher, at 141,060. See the FPA’s website, for an analysis of how infection rates amongst young people compare to the rest of the population.
The LGA has argued that the £600 million public health budget for sex education should be used to make sex education compulsory in all schools, including academies and free schools.
Public health concerns
In London, the rise in STIs has been attributed to many factors, including Tinder, and now the inadequate coverage of sex and relationships education in schools. STI testing in London has been made freely available for 16-24 year olds, with the hope that this will help people to access non-judgmental support.
It is hoped that advertising campaigns by organisations involved in promoting safe sexual behaviours will end some of the stigma associated with STIs and open up conversations which could protect people’s health. We are all aware of the harm that HIV can cause, but too many people are unaware that bacterial STIs can lead to infertility, blindness and fetal abnormalities. Caught early, however, most are treatable, and you can order a test kit at https://www.checkurself.org.uk/order-a-test-kit/.
However, these infections can be asymptomatic, so even if you feel completely well, you should get tested each time you have unprotected sex with a new partner. Obviously, the smartest and safest choice is to avoid unprotected sex, but if you have done this, order a home testing kit or visit your local GUM clinic.