WASHINGTON — There were certain things that the 1990s just did better — including getting the word out about the dangers of unprotected sex.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of American students using condoms hit its peak at around 60% a decade ago, and has stalled since then, even declining among some demographics. A recent study released by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada found that nearly 50% of sexually active college students aren’t using condoms. Other reports have found that while teenagers are likely to use a condom the first time they have sex, their behavior becomes inconsistent after that.
Health officials from Oregon to Georgia are ringing alarm bells about rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases, worried that kids aren’t getting the message. Sex education is more robust than it was for previous generations, but a 2012 Guttmacher Institute report revealed that while nearly 90% of high schools are teaching students about abstinence and STDs, fewer than 60% are providing lessons about contraception methods.
The CDC estimates that half of new STD infections occur among young people. Americans ages 15 to 24 contract chlamydia and gonorrhea at four times the rate of the general population, and those in their early 20s have the highest reported cases of syphilis and HIV. Young men and women are more likely than older people to report having no sex in the past year, yet those who are having sex are more likely to have multiple partners, which increases the risk of STDs.
“We need to do better as a nation,” says Laura Kann, an expert in youth risk behaviors at the CDC. “Far too many kids in this country continue to be infected with HIV and continue to be at risk.”
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