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Analysis: Lessons about HIV, STDs, Preventing Pregnancy Declining

From guest blogger Nirvi Shah:

A new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that in 2010, the percentage of middle schools teaching about HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy prevention was significantly lower in 11 states than in 2008.

The findings come from a CDC analysis of 2008 and 2010 School Health Profiles data for schools in 45 states.

The analysis also found that the percentage of secondary schools teaching several condom-related topics in a required course in grades 9, 10, 11, or 12 was significantly lower in eight states and significantly higher in three states.

Although a median of 90 percent of all public secondary schools across the 45 states in the report taught HIV prevention in a required course during 2010, the CDC said the findings indicate that little progress was made in increasing the number of specific topics covered as part of HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy prevention education during 2008-2010.

The agency said more research is needed to understand how schools decide the number of specific HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy prevention topics taught.

The CDC advocates for HIV, other STD, and pregnancy-prevention education in middle school because most students in those grades are not yet sexually active. HIV, other STD, and pregnancy-prevention education taught before most young people engage in risk behaviors, including information on the benefits of abstinence and delaying or limiting sexual activity, can prevent behavior that could lead to STDs and pregnancy.

And because many students become sexually active during high school—46 percent, the CDC says—education about STDs and pregnancy is "critically important."

The agency says education that includes information on condom efficacy, the importance of using condoms consistently and correctly, and how to obtain condoms taught to those who might decide to be or are sexually active can prevent behaviors STDs and pregnancy and address misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted. A 2011 public opinion poll showed that that 20 percent of of people age 18-29 believe incorrectly that a person can become infected with HIV by sharing a drinking glass, or are unsure whether the statement is true or false.

Earlier this year, several groups presented national standards about sexuality education that they hope will be widely adopted. The standards, about sexuality, sexual health, and relationships outline topics students should learn, starting in kindergarten, and that they can build on as they grow older.

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