Young people have good knowledge of HIV/AIDS, but know less about chlamydia and other STIs, which pose more of a risk for this group. They get most of their knowledge from school programs and from discussions with their mothers.
While there’s no direct relationship between knowledge and behaviour – a person may know that cigarettes are harmful, but choose to smoke anyway – evaluations of school programs show that young people who have had sex education are more likely to delay sexual intercourse and to have it safely when the time comes.
The bulk of the information in this article was taken from Secondary Students and Sexual Health, containing the results of the 4th National Survey of Australian Secondary Students, HIV/ AIDS and Sexual Health conducted in 2008 by The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, and funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.
For information about sexual health, students most commonly consulted their:
Mother (56 per cent)
A female friend (55 per cent)
Used the school sexual health program (49 per cent)
Pamphlets (44 per cent).
Doctors (39 per cent) were also nominated as a fairly common source of information for sexual health, but their use as an information source did not match the level of trust that teenagers placed in them (73 per cent – the most trusted of any source).
Conversely, students were more likely to use both web sites (36 per cent) and the media (35 per cent) for information on sexual health, than they were to actually trust the material provided by these sources (web sites – 25 per cent, media – 22 per cent).
The results from the 2008 national survey included that:
HIV knowledge remains relatively high and comparable to the levels found in 2002.
There has been a marked improvement in student sexually transmissible infection (STI) knowledge between the 2002 and 2008 studies. Despite this, in some areas, student STI knowledge remains relatively poor.
Despite generally poor student knowledge of chlamydia, knowledge of this infection had improved significantly since 2002.
Hepatitis A, B and C knowledge remains relatively poor, but there had been some improvement in student knowledge regarding hepatitis B and C.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) knowledge was measured for the first time in 2008 and student knowledge of this sexually transmissible infection was very poor. In most cases, more than half the sample reported being unsure of correct answers to HPV knowledge questions.
Cervical cancer knowledge was measured for the first time in the 2008 study and knowledge was generally poor.
There were no gender differences in students’ HIV knowledge. However, young women demonstrated better knowledge generally, in terms of STIs, HPV, cervical cancer and hepatitis, compared with young men.