Good Progress Toward Sexual Health, But Some Gaps Remain
The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance shows us yet again that young people can and do take responsibility for their health and lives. Young people are making healthy decisions about sex, including deferring sex to a later age and using birth control when they have sex.
Despite declines in sexual activity, sex is still very common among young people; by 12th grade, 59% of males and 57.2% of females report ever having had sex. Sex is a normal and natural part of life. We should give young people the tools they need to protect themselves and plan their futures, including quality sex education and access to reproductive and sexual health services.
One matter of concern is the significant drop in percentage of students who have been tested for HIV (a 20% drop from 12.9% to 10.2%) – especially when considered along with the information from the 2013 YRBS that HIV education has declined since 1997. Young people are the only group for whom new HIV cases are increasing, with young men who have sex with men especially at risk of acquiring HIV. We cannot grow complacent about HIV when it is still a threat to many youth.
Young people are leading the way as peer educators and activists committed to ending HIV – as evidenced by their leadership in observing National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day. We must support their efforts and ensure that sexuality education includes HIV information.