Second National Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy 2010 - 2013

6.1.1 Young people

Page last updated: July 2010

The fourth National Secondary Schools Health Survey36 indicates gaps in secondary students’ knowledge, and attitudes and behaviour about sexual matters, that could compromise their health and wellbeing in the short and long term. Sex education in schools is a highly effective strategy for decreasing sexual risk-taking in young people.37 Sex education as part of a range of health promotion activities is therefore supported. A national curriculum is currently being developed in Australia, and any new developments in sex education will be formulated as part of this development process.

Ongoing and enhanced sex education within schools as an integral part of the school curriculum is strongly recommended. A holistic approach places risk-taking behaviours within the social context of young people’s lives. It will require a committed and strong partnership between health and education departments, with a clear enunciation of roles and responsibilities and supportive evidence. This approach is supported by the health reform agenda. Other approaches, such as youth peer education and social marketing, are recognised as effective tools to engage with young people about STIs, including HIV.

Young people of school age who are no longer in the school system are also potentially at risk of STIs, including HIV. The development and delivery of health promotion interventions targeted to this dynamic and diverse group is a priority.

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36 Smith A, Agius P, Mitchell A, Barrett C & Pitts M, 2009, ‘Secondary Students and Sexual Health 2008’, monograph series no. 70, Melbourne: Australian Research Centre, Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University, <>, accessed 7 August 2009.
37 Kirby DB, Laris BA & Rolleri LA, 2007, ‘Sex and HIV Education Programs: Their Impact on Sexual Behaviors of Young People Throughout the World’, Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 40, pp. 206–217.