Sex education failing young people: survey

08:35, May 05, 2010      

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Chinese youths are becoming more adventurous in their sexual activity, but ignorance is still a serious problem due to their insatiable demand for counseling and treatment services, the first nationwide survey on youth access to reproductive health in China showed Tuesday.

The preliminary findings of the survey, released by the Population Research Center of Peking University to the Global Times, showed that most of the 164 million unmarried young people on the Chinese mainland, aged 15-24 in 2009, are open to premarital sex, with two thirds of them accepting the behavior or not feeling strongly about it, while 22.4 percent said they had already experienced sexual intercourse.

In contrast to their tolerance of sexual behavior, only 4.4 percent of those questioned had correct knowledge of sexual and re-productive health, while 14.4 percent knew about HIV transmission and prevention.

The survey, carried out among 22,288 unmarried youths in 30 provinces of the Chinese mainland, excluding the Tibetan Autonomous Region, finds that around 60 percent of demands for counseling services and 50 percent of demands for treatment are unmet, with the top reason being embarrassment. Other important reasons are that people don't consider their condition to be serious enough and they don't know whom to consult.

The situation leads to more unsafe sexual behavior, accidental pregnancy and infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Over 50 percent said they did not use contraceptive methods during their first sexual encounter, and, among females who had been sexually active, 21.3 percent became accidentally pregnant, of whom 91 percent resorted to abortion, the survey finds.

Li Bian, director of AIDS Prevention Education of Chinese Youth (APECY), founded by the China Charity Federation and the Chinese Society of Education, told the Global Times that he was not surprised by the findings, which reflect a worrying trend.

As unmarried young girls with unplanned pregnancies are normally embarrassed and afraid of asking for help from family, many of them resort to underground clinics, which increase the possibility of infection, he said.

"The worst situation in my memory is that of a girl who had her womb removed because of an abortion surgery with an unqualified doctor," he added.

Zhao Long, 23, a senior student at Tianjin Sports College, told the Global Times that he is open to premarital sex but he is not very clear how harmful it is for girls to have an abortion due to an accidental pregnancy.

"My early sex knowledge came from the television talking about preventing AIDS by using condoms when I was in secondary school," Zhao said. "Sex education in school is very rare. I only had one class as I can remember but I cannot remember what the teacher talked about."
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