Aims This study assessed support for increases in sexuality education and sexual health services for both middle school and high school students. Data is essential to reinforce change in communities with limited sexuality education, services, and related policy, yet with high rates of teen pregnancy and STDs/HIV.
Methods A 22-item survey was developed after an extensive review of existing instruments and feedback from an expert panel. Questions addressed support for specific sexuality education topics and sexual health services at middle and high school levels. Through a University research-polling center, Random-Digit-Dialing methodology for landlines (26.9%) and cell phones (71.3%) was implemented. Surveys were conducted in English and Spanish. The resulting sample included 615 completed surveys.
Results Despite wide differences in party identification, median household income, population density and racial make-up, the counties’ aggregate opinions were very supportive of sexuality education and sexual health services. Of eight sexuality education topics presented, ‘HIV and STDs’ received the highest support (91% middle school, 96% high school) and ‘Gender and Sexual Orientation’ received the lowest (71% middle school, 78% high school). Of four sexual health services presented, ‘Testing for STDs/HIV’ received the highest level of support (61% middle school, 82% high school), while ‘Providing Condoms’ received the lowest (49% middle school, 69% high school). Additionally, most participants (84-90%) would allow their children to participate in grade level appropriate sexuality education, most (85-89%) support teaching both abstinence and birth control, yet almost half (47%) do not know if sexuality education is taught in their districts. Demographic differences will be presented along with participant perceptions of adolescent sexual behaviors.
Conclusions Overwhelming support for increasing efforts to improve sexual health among adolescents exits. Findings from this study can be used to advance initiatives addressing unplanned pregnancy, STD/HIV infection, healthy relationships and active consent. This data supports components of evidence-based programs and current national efforts to improve adolescent sexual heath.
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