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Teen Health 411

UN Guide for Sex Education Generates Opposition

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The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) proposed sex education guidelines are stirring up quite the controversy - before they are even published! I will give you one guess who is attacking them - oh come on, guess!

That is correct - conservative and religious groups are attacking the guidelines because of their portrayal of issues like sex education, abortion and homosexuality. Specifically, the guidelines describe sexual abstinence as only one of a range of choices available to young people to prevent disease and avoid pregnancy."The guidelines also dare to suggest that families discuss masturbation with their children, starting as young as five, but definitely with preteens.

UNESCO has been working on this document for two years, drawing on experts around the world and more than 80 studies about sexuality education. The goal of the document is to help countries, especially developing countries reduce sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and illegal abortions, as well as improving the overall sexual health of all people.

Why shouldn't we be blocking these guidelines? Well, here are a few reasons. WHO estimates:
  • 340 million new cases of curable STIs (syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis) occur annually throughout the world in adults aged 15-49 years.
  • In developing countries, STIs and their complications rank in the top five disease categories for which adults seek health care.
  • Infection with STIs can lead to acute symptoms, chronic infection and serious delayed consequences such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, cervical cancer and the untimely death of infants and adults.
  • Between 10% and 40% of women with untreated chlamydial infection develop symptomatic pelvic inflammatory disease. Post-infection tubal damage is responsible for 30% to 40% of cases of female infertility.
  • Women who have had pelvic inflammatory disease are 6 to 10 times more likely to develop an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy than those who have not, and 40% to 50% of ectopic pregnancies can be attributed to previous pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • In pregnant women with untreated early syphilis, 25% of pregnancies result in stillbirth and 14% in neonatal death – an overall perinatal mortality of about 40%.
  • Syphilis prevalence in pregnant women in Africa, for example, ranges from 4% to 15%.
  • Up to 35% of pregnancies among women with untreated gonococcal infection result in spontaneous abortions and premature deliveries, and up to 10% in perinatal deaths.
  • The presence of an untreated STIs increases the risk of both acquisition and transmission of HIV by a factor of up to 10.
Need I say more?
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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