EDINBURGH, December 3, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A report issued by the devolved Scottish government has shown the failure of “safer sex” campaigns to teach ever-younger audiences about condoms and other sexual practices intended to reduce the rates of teen pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases. The report says that all age groups know about “safer sex,” but that teen pregnancies and rates of sexually transmitted diseases still continue to climb.
“High rates of STIs, teenage pregnancies, and abortions indicate that young people continue to take risks, including the inconsistent use of contraception – unprotected sexual intercourse remains a problem,” the report says.
Teenage pregnancy rates have remained steady in Scotland and are among the highest in Europe. The 2009 abortion rate for women aged 16 to 19 was 22.3 per 1,000. The figure was 22.0 per 1,000 for those aged 20 to 24.
In addition, “Diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among heterosexual men and women continue to increase; young people, aged less than 25, are the group most at risk of being infected with an STI.”
Among the most common infections is chlamydia, with the report noting that 48 percent of all chlamydia tests are carried out on young people under age 25. In 2009, 79 percent and 76 percent of genital chlamydia and gonorrhoea cases involved women under 25, and 63 percent and 56 percent respectively for men in the same age group.
The report also comments that “most” cases of HIV in Scotland are “sexually acquired,” with male homosexuals continuing to engage in “high risk behaviour.”
The solution, said the authors, is “increased opportunities for behavioural interventions to promote safer sex.”
Since the 2001 launch of the Scottish government’s “Healthy Respect” sexual education schemes, that were intended to lower rates of STDs and abortions, the rates have either climbed or remained steady.
Phase 2 of the Healthy Respect program was launched in 2004 and involved the placing of a number of “Healthy Respect clinics” in schools where “young people could access general health advice and, in some cases, specialist sexual health services including contraceptives, were provided.”
The scheme involved multi-million-pound public relations exercises “drawing strongly on social marketing principles … to help change young people’s attitudes to sexual health and to positively influence the culture around young people’s sexual health and relationships.”
The public marketing scheme consisted of a website, printed materials and resources and “proactive public relations and events and two media campaigns aimed at young people.”
Despite the lack of evidence that it lowers the rates of STDs, pregnancies and abortion, the report recommends increasing sex education even further, saying, “The availability of good sex and relationships education (SRE) and the empowerment of young women to make informed choices about their future continue to be of importance.”
In the program’s 2008 report, the evaluators said, “There was evidence that Healthy Respect engaged with many young people,” with the media campaigns reaching an estimated 13,000 young people.
But the message failed to make an impact, with tracking surveys indicating that only 40 to 66 percent of the target audience of under 25s were aware of Healthy Respect. A secondary school survey placed this number at the lower end of the range, with 21 percent recalling information about Healthy Respect and 38 percent recognizing the logo.
Healthy Respect 2 was aimed at children aged ten to 18. The report said it had “limited beneficial impact,” commenting that girls gained “very little or experienced health losses” as a result of the program.