Sexual Reproductive Health Education: A Critical Need for Early Intervention Among Students in the Caribbean

By Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, St. George's University
September 6, 2011

Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) education empowers people to understand their sexuality in the context of biological, psychological, socio-cultural and reproductive dimensions. Early sexual activity is associated with detrimental effects and school based SRH education programs are identified as effective means of addressing significant adolescent and child health issues. Studies indicate the age of sexual initiation is quite young. Therefore any intervention should occur prior to this, emphasizing the need for SRH education at the primary school level. A significant proportion of children and adolescents affected by Sexually Transmitted Infections and/or premature pregnancies live in the Caribbean where the topic of sex education is considered taboo. Specific consequences of unprotected sexual intercourse, attitudes and knowledge regarding sexual intercourse, contraception, delaying the age of sexual debut, peer pressure and gender specific information need to be addressed in a culturally specific manner. Sexual violence, coercion and transactional sex also need to be a focus. The development of such a curriculum requires the involvement of human sexuality and behavioral experts and its successful implementation is a collaborative effort.

The economic burden of those affected by adverse SRH consequences is considerable. School-based SRH education programs present a significant economic commitment to develop, train, implement, monitor, evaluate and maintain the program. In addition to the development of community health support services and investment in research is required. However, when compared to the cost of treatment of HIV/AIDS and other STIs, this preventive approach is more cost effective. STIs and premature pregnancies is an increasing SRH burden for the Caribbean. The young child and adolescent population are particularly at risk of unhealthy SRH behavior which requires an evidence based SRH education at a critical time in their development.

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