The Alabama Campaign for Adolescent Sexual Health has just released its 2021 YRBS fact sheet to the general public. The YRBS, or Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System Survey, is done every other year through the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) and state partners. In Alabama the CDC works in coordination with the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE). The YRBS asks high school students about health behaviors, including nutrition and exercise, violence, substance use, and sexual activity, among others.
The 2021 YRBS shows that 47% of 12th graders in Alabama have had sexual intercourse at least once, and 38% of 12th graders were currently sexually active. Current sexual activity slightly decreased from 43% in 2019. Unfortunately, although nearly half of all Alabama high schoolers will have engaged in sexual activity before graduation, most are not taking precautions to protect their sexual health. Seventy-seven percent of Alabama high schoolers (grades 9-12) did not use any contraception before their last sexual intercourse, and 48% did not use a condom during last sexual intercourse. Despite these risks, only 6% of students have been tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and 8% have been tested for HIV.
Alabama ranks among the highest in the nation for teen births and has six cities that fall within the top 100 cities in the country with the highest rates of STIs. “Even though parents of school aged children report that they overwhelmingly support sex education in Alabama, the state government does not support comprehensive sex education with either its money or its policies. Young people in Alabama are desperate for medically accurate information to protect their health, and the caring adults in their lives are failing them,” said Christina Clark Okarmus, executive director of the Alabama Campaign. Research shows that comprehensive sexual health curriculum delays initiation of sexual intercourse, results in youth having fewer sexual partners, increases use of protection among youth (specifically condoms), and improves overall academic performance.
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