Concerns about adverse consequences of teenage pregnancy and risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have renewed interest in the sexual behaviour of adolescents and teens in developing countries such as Belize, where they represent a large proportion of the population and are at highest risk.
There are several good reasons to study sex education and its use in the adolescent population. According to the Knowledge, Attitude and Practices in Sexual Behavior & HIV in Belize 2014 Report (KAP) out of the 73,369 youth ages 15-24, 61.2% or 43,346 have had sexual intercourse. This places increasing numbers of adolescents at risk for premarital pregnancy and STIs.
Premarital pregnancies are more likely to be unplanned, and unplanned pregnancies have been shown to increase the risk of maternal and child mortality.
Later age at marriage also contributes to exposure to a larger number of sexual partners which is associated with higher rates of STIs including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In Belize approximately 11% of the youth population reported that they had sex with more than one partner during the last 12 months.
The only known protection against these diseases is abstinence or the latex condom, yet it is estimated that among 15 to 24 year olds who reported having had more than one sexual partner within the last 12 months, only 59% reported having used a condom during the last sexual intercourse.
This leaves the question in our minds: What are the rest doing or using?
Once people started surviving AIDS, safe sex lost its immediacy, with a signifying switch to a lighter, breezier approach.
Also, the fact that condom use and other safer sex behaviours reduce one’s chance of infection with a life-altering STI like gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, or HPV is often barely acknowledged in public awareness campaigns, although it should be trumpeted loud and often.
Safe sex isn’t just about HIV prevention, although the Ministry of Health statistics for 2015 show that the newly diagnosed HIV cases were 239.
This is especially true in two groups which are Sex workers and Men who have sex with other men who show a very risky sexual behaviour.
HIV leads to AIDS and death, if left untreated. And there is no such thing as safe sex.
Don’t make the mistake of believing that safe sex is a thing of the past. You can protect yourself from needless infection and chronic health complications by following these simple steps. And as parents, we need to practice what we preach:
- Get tested.
- Use the right condom consistently and correctly
- Limit the number of sexual partners