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Plea for better sex education in Northern Ireland schools as STIs rise

By Lisa Smyth

Published 12/09/2016

Schools across Northern Ireland must improve their sex education after one in five people admitted that they were embarrassed when buying condoms, a sexual health charity has said
Schools across Northern Ireland must improve their sex education after one in five people admitted that they were embarrassed when buying condoms, a sexual health charity has said

Schools across Northern Ireland must improve their sex education after one in five people admitted that they were embarrassed when buying condoms, a sexual health charity has said.

A fifth of people responding to a survey carried out by the Family Planning Association (FPA) also said that lessons about sex and relationships were based on the personal beliefs of the teacher or stance of the school, rather than evidence-based information.

With 9,600 people in Northern Ireland diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) last year, the FPA said the results of its survey prove more needs to be done to educate young people about sexual health.

"It is so important that the education young people receive at school adequately prepares them for the relationships they will have during their life, especially when it comes to staying safe from infections and being able to make positive choices about their own sexual health and wellbeing," said the FPA's Northern Ireland director Mark Breslin.

"Relationship and sexuality education and how it is delivered is often a postcode lottery when it comes to schools.

"Sexual health information should not depend on the personal views of teachers or the ethos of schools. Even when there is accurate information, it needs to go beyond basic biology, to help young people explore relationship and sexuality issues."

The FPA surveyed more than 2,000 people across the UK.

In Northern Ireland, only 10% said they learnt how to confidently talk to a partner about using condoms.

Even fewer - just 7% - were taught about dealing with situations where a partner puts pressure on you to have sex without using a condom.

Mr Breslin added: "One in 10 people in our survey said they think it is still taboo for women to buy and carry condoms, and 26% said men should take more responsibility for buying and carrying condoms than women.

"We need to challenge these attitudes around safer sex, because protecting yourself from infections and unplanned pregnancy is nothing less than a responsible health choice for men and women."

The FPA is using Sexual Health Week to raise awareness of what STIs are and how they can be passed on, and to give people information on accessing support when they need it.

According to most recent official figures, there were 94 new cases of HIV diagnosed in 2014, with 809 patients receiving care for the disease.

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