Objective: To investigate young people’s perceptions of sexual health services that they demand and sex education provided children.
Design: Questionnaires based on open-ended questions.
Setting: 30 young people (aged 19-21 years) surveyed at Anglia Ruskin University.
Method: I interviewed young people using the questionnaires.
Results: 80% young people think that “Confidentiality” and “Friendly atmosphere and staffs easy to talk to” are the important factors, when they ask someone sexual questions. On the other hand, they don’t think that general advice about sexual health and other health matters is important factors. Also, they think that children should be taught different sexual health educations, such as “How to say ‘no’ to sex”, “Contraception”, and “Sexuality, Religious and Morality”, at around 13 years old at school.
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Conclusion: I identified that young people’s demands towards sexual health services are comfortable atmosphere and reliable staffs, not sexual health knowledge and counsellor’s advice itself. Also, I felt that young people’s versions of the proper ages that children should learn each sex education are almost the same as that of general Japanese through this study.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) define sexual health as
“Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled”. (1)
According to AVERT which is an international AIDS charity define sex education as
“Sex education, which is sometimes called sexuality education or sex and relationships education, is the process of acquiring information and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy. Sex education is also about developing young people’s skills so that they make informed choices about their behaviour, and feel confident and competent about acting on these choices. It is widely accepted that young people have a right to sex education. This is because it is a means by which they are helped to protect themselves against abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and AIDS. It is also argued that providing sex education helps to meet young people’s rights to information about matters that affect them, their right to have their needs met and to help them enjoy their sexuality and the relationships that they form”. (2)
Nowadays, the attentions on sexual health services and sex education towards young people have been increasing, because there are facts that the concept of sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS, Chlamydia, and Syphilis, has become more familiar to young people, and the number of unwanted pregnancies is increasing.
Governments and organisations try to deal with the problems through providing places where people can learn sex education, or establishing special institutions providing sexual health services. In fact, there is The Sydney Sexual Health Centre in Sydney, Australia. They state on their site,
“The Sydney Sexual Health Centre provides a confidential and comprehensive service that helps put you in control of your sexual health. We do this by providing screening, vaccination and management of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) including HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, women’s and men’s sexual health care, education, individual and couple counselling, and needle and syringe program. The service is free and a Medicare card is not required”. (3)
They supply people with knowledge, advice, and testing for different sexually transmitted diseases for free. As a matter of course, there are many similar institutions in the UK, and such sexual health services are provided by National Health Service in each area.
According to AVERT, the purpose of sex education is the following.
“Sex education aims to reduce the risks of potentially negative outcomes from sexual behaviour, such as unwanted or unplanned pregnancies and infection with sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. It also aims to contribute to young people’s positive experience of their sexuality by enhancing the quality of their relationships and their ability to make informed decisions over their lifetime. Sex education that works, by which we mean that it is effective, is sex education that contributes to both these aims thus helping young people to be safe and enjoy their sexuality”. (2)
I think that the supplies of sexual health services and sex education to young people are important for their health and future, so I decided to investigate whether they were taught about sex education at their school or not, and what images young people in Cambridge have regarding it.
I created questionnaires which are consisted of open-ended questions, and those questionnaires are based on questionnaires designed by C Reeves, R Whitaker, R K Parsonage, C A Robinson, K Swale, L Bayley in their research paper, “Sexual health services and education: Young people’s experiences and preferences”. (4)
I asked respondents to comment on services they expect counsellors or facilities providing sexual health services, and the right ages that children should be taught sexual relationship education at school.
I interviewed 30 young people at Anglia Ruskin University. I tabulated the data, and I assessed the differences between groups.
Young people’s demands towards sexual health services
I asked young people, “If you went for information/advice regarding contraception/health matters, how important would each of the following be to you? For your information, you can choose as many as you feel appropriate”.
Table 1 showed the results. According to the table 1, 80% young people answered that “Confidentiality” and “Friendly atmosphere and staff easy to talk to” are the significant aspects. Surprisingly, they replied that counsellor’s character and comradely atmosphere are more important than their advice or knowledge. As the third best answer, “Tests for HIV and other sexual infections” were an important factor for young people. 63% respondents agreed “Emergency contraception” is also a weighty factor. Those two aspects were concrete and visible rather than abstract and sensuous such as top two factors. Following that, “Not telling your parents without your permission” was the fifth best factor. This might mean that young people are afraid of their parents’ views of their sexual lives. “Unplanned pregnancy counselling”, and “Pregnancy testing”, were important factors, with 53% and 50% respectively. These results might show that young people’s contraceptive use is low when they have sexual relationships with their partner. Also, they look that they understand a risk of having a sexual relationship without a contraceptive item, such as a condom. Next, Young people answered that “Being able to go without an appointment” and “General advice on sexual health” are less important that above sections, with 33% and 30% each. Last, “Advice on other health matters” was the least important element for them.
As I told above, to sum up, young people put importance on sexual health professionals’ character and the mood. On the other hand, they don’t care about advice or knowledge from sexual health professionals.
The proper ages of being taught each sex education
Table 2 shows that the proper ages that children should be taught different sex education topics from the views of young people. According to the table 2, young people think that children should be taught the following sex education at around 13 years old. Interestingly, each age of “Homosexuality and lesbianism”, “Sexuality, religions and moral values”, “HIV/AIDS and other STDs”, “Rape”, “Abortion”, and “Sexual abuse” was slightly higher than other items. All of these items are related to individual belief regarding sexual relationships, or solemn problems, such as sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual violence.
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On the other hand, the ages of children being taught “Contraception”, “How to discuss contraceptive use”, and “How to say ‘no’ to sex” were marginally lower than above one. Also, young people answered that children should be educated “Role of emotions in sexual relationships” sooner than others. According to the table 2, these 4 topics under 13 years old are more basic and central topics than the one over 14 years old.
To sum up, young people believe that children should be taught sex education around 13 years old, but they also feel that there are proper stages of being taught each sexual education topic.
I found out that young people’s perceptions of sexual health services and sex education through this study.
Firstly, I discovered that the strongest demand of sexual health services of young people is the mood and personality of counsellors providing sexual health services, not their knowledge and their advice itself. I think that the reason is young people can get information on sexual problems itself through the Internet, TV, and books. Therefore, I feel that they need the environment and people that provide them with the sense of safety and a feeling of trust in the counsellors. Similarly, their concern about sexually transmitted diseases was a high score, so this might mean that sexually transmitted diseases spread young people. According to the Health Protection Agency’s report in the UK between 1999 and 2008 (5), the number of Syphilis rose dramatically from 223 to 2524. In the same way, there was a striking increase in the number of Chlamydia from 56991 to 123018. Also, the patients caused by herpes considerably increased from 17509 to 28957. Total number of patients went up by approximately 150000 only 10 years. In 1999, similarly, just over 3000 people were diagnosed with HIV in the UK. However, there were 7298 new diagnoses of HIV in 2008, so the increase was more than twice. On the other hand, young people don’t need advices of sexual health and general health so much. As I stated above, I think that the reason why they don’t put importance on these aspects is that they can get similar advice or much better information which are related to their problems through different ways, such as the Internet, magazines, and TV. Hence, they demand friendly atmosphere and conversable staffs on sexual health services.
When I was 11, 12 years old, I studied sex education at my elementary school. So, I found that the ages that young people in Cambridge were taught sex education at school is almost the same as that of general Japanese people experienced at school. According to the table 2, young people think that children should be taught primary and fundamental sex education, such as “Role of emotions in sexual relationships”, “Contraception”, “How to say ‘no’ to sex”, faster than others. I think that it is hard for children who are around 12 years old to understand completely the meaning of taking sex education, because most children don’t have an interest in sexual activities at the age. However, sex education would be important for them in a few years later, so they should be taught basic sex education at the early stage. After that, they should learn more ethical and serious sex education, such as “Sexually Transmitted Diseases”, “Abortion”, and “Rape”. In my opinion, at the same time, I feel that governments and organisations should establish institutions providing sexual health services and sex education for some children who want to study and need it. In a consequence, children’s understanding about sex education would improve, so unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases would decline from a long-time point of view.
I found out that young people’s demands towards sexual health services and the staffs, and their notion of the ages when children should be taught sex education at school through this study. However, I didn’t explore the differences between gender, generation, and countries on this time. As future prospects, I feel that I should increase the number of respondents, and ask their gender, religion, gender, and nationality, and analyse the data. As a consequence, I could get more interesting and broad information regarding the perceptions of young people’s sexual health services and sex education.
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