Australia’s youth to start talking about sex education

With sexually transmitted infections amongst young people at epidemic rates, the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) in partnership with Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS (YEAH) – have launched an online survey to uncover how young people access sexual health information and the kind of information they find – whether it comes from schools and community organisations, or mainly from friends, pornography or the Internet.

Australia’s young people are facing a sexual health crisis of epidemic scale. 75% of all sexually transmitted infections (STI) in Australia occur amongst young people and in the past three years, there has been a 20% increase in the rate of STIs diagnosed amongst people aged 15-29. “Young people are the best experts on their own experience, and their voices are key to understanding what works and what the issues really are in sexual health education in Australia today,” AYAC’s Deputy Director (Young People) Maia Giordano said. AYAC and YEAH believe that there is an urgent need to develop an understanding of the cause of the rapid rise of STIs in Australia’s young people.

“Sex sells! Children and young people are constantly bombarded with sexual innuendo and images from advertising, magazines, social media, and porn. The question is where do young people access relevant, accurate information on sexual health that they trust?” YEAH’s CEO Alischa Ross said.

AYAC and YEAH want to find out exactly what young people need in their sexual health education, as well as who should deliver it and how. This information will be presented to the federal government as part of a wider campaign for reforming sexual health education across the country’s schools.

“Sexual health is a lot more than just disease safe sex or reproduction its also about healthy relationships, sexuality and development, consent and pleasure. We must create opportunities for young people to shape the type of sexual health information they want to have access to as an important step towards young people taking control of their sexual health rather than pretending young people aren’t having sex,” said Ross.

The Personal Development, Health and Physical Education component of the national high school curriculum is currently being developed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, and will, for the first time, offer a consistent national approach to sex education for all Australian school students.

AYAC and YEAH believe that the results of their survey should inform the develop ment of the new curriculum. AYAC and YEAH assert that the government needs to hear directly from young people before developing any policies and prog rams that affect their sexual health and wellbeing.

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