4th National School Sexual Health Survey

Transcript

Narrator:

The results of a national survey conducted by La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre for Sex, Health and Society have been released, showing the increasing amount of sexual activity amongst young Australians.

Professor Anthony Smith:

The purpose of the survey was to provide a snapshot of the sexual health of knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of students in years 10 and 12 across Australia, so we looked at knowledge around HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and aspects of their sexual behaviour.

We asked a set of questions about HIV transmission, and pleasingly most students got most of those questions right, although worryingly, about 12% didn’t know that condoms offered protection against HIV transmission. In terms of sexually transmitted infections, knowledge is much worse, but has been improving over the last ten years.

Narrator:

While these results are encouraging, it reinforces the need for more sex education, with 88% of respondents seeking out information about sexual health.

Professor Anthony Smith:

We’re not particularly happy about the results around sexually transmitted infections, or hepatitis or particularly human Papillomavirus which is now the subject of a mass rollout vaccine campaign for young women, about which they know almost nothing at all.

Narrator:

The survey also found that 38% of respondents had experienced unwanted sex, with the most common reasons being pressure from a partner or the result of drug or alcohol use.

Assoc. Professor Anne Mitchell:

I guess we’re not so concerned about the levels of sexual activity but more about whether that sexual activity is safe and whether it’s sexual activity that young people are wanting and enjoying rather than feeling forced into or pressured into. And the amount of unwanted sex has increased over the time we’ve been doing these surveys so that is an area of particular concern, I think. One that schools need to get a bit more realistic about and probably start incorporating some of the important skills that young people need to avoid being in those situations in their school programs.

Professor Anthony Smith:

Only about 50% of people report always using condoms in the last year, and only two thirds report using condoms in their last sexual encounter. These rates are too low, and they remain stubbornly fixed at those rates and have done so for the last ten years.

Narrator:

Teenage views on sexual activity also show a change, with the findings that 27% of the respondents had oral sex with three or more partners.

Professor Anthony Smith:

In terms of sexual intercourse it’s gone up about 35% to 40%, and this is entirely attributable to the behaviour of young women, particularly those in year 12. When we’re looking at the number of partners they’re having, there’s been a marked increase in the proportion of people who are having more than three partners in the last 12 months, it’s gone up from 20% to 30%. And we also see modest increases in the proportion of young people reporting three or more oral sex partners with whom they’re not having intercourse, and that’s gone up from 13% to 17%.

The issue with the low rates of condom use, or the fact that it’s not increasing is the biggest predictor of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease is the number of partners you have. So if you’re having more partners but your condom use is not increasing, then the likelihood of acquiring an STI increases very rapidly.

Narrator:

The results of the survey will be used to update sexual education programs, with the hope that the increase in teenage knowledge and awareness will continue.

Assoc. Professor Anne Mitchell:

Reports from other years have been the most downloaded reports from our website, and we expect this one again to be used by a very wide range of people in planning services for young people and making sure that the health materials they get to them are relevant and reflect the kind of behaviours and concerns that young people have.

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