The amount of U.S. teenagers who are sexually active without a condom and under the influence hasn’t changed very much in the past 20 years, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Statistics released by the Adolescent and School health report showed just how few schools meet the recommendations for sex education in America, raising concern about the prevention of STDs and pregnancy for modern teenagers.
The report, released in May, illustrates that fewer than half of high schools and nearly one-fifth of middle schools cover the 16 topics the CDC recommends students in grades 6 to 12 learn.
The percentage of teens who reported using a condom the last time they had sex decreased from 63 percent to 59 percent since 2003, with 22 percent saying they consumed alcohol or drugs during their last sexual encounter, effectively showing no progress in two decades. This is troubling considering increases in safe sex among the younger demographic have stagnated, and one-quarter of new HIV diagnoses and half of all STD infections occur in people under 25, according to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.
“Lack of effective sex education can have very real, very serious health consequences,” said Dr. Stephanie Zaza, director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, in a press release. “Young people who have multiple sex partners, don’t use condoms, and use drugs or alcohol before sex are at higher risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. School-based sex education is a critical opportunity to provide the skills and information they need to protect themselves.”
These days, fewer than half of high schools in most states across the country cover the recommended topics. CDC’s new report observed a range of 21 percent of schools in Arizona to a high of 90 percent in New Jersey covering all 16 sex education topics, with only New Jersey, New York, and New Hampshire having 75 percent of their high schools teaching all the recommended sex-ed topics.
As for middle schools, the numbers are even lower – ranging from a low of 4 percent in Arizona to 46 percent in North Carolina. In fact, fewer than 20 percent of middle schools in most states taught the topics, and no state had more than half of their high schools doing so.
“We need to do a better job of giving our young people the skills and knowledge they need to protect their own health,” said Dr. 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.”