The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a major need for sex ed in schools: sexual health network

The Sexual Health Network of Quebec (SHNQ) is urging educators in the province to increase sex ed learning during the COVID-19 pandemic to help students navigate the crisis in a health sexual way. SOURCE: SHNQ

With sexual health clinics closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resources cut off, Quebec's sexual health workers are urging Quebec educators to place importance on teaching sex ed in schools.

The Sexual Health Network of Quebec (SHNQ) said the health crisis has had a profound impact on the province's students' sexual outcomes.

"COVID-19 has resulted in countless sexual health clinic closures, creating inaccessibility to contraceptives, STI testing, abortion, and other reproductive services," said SHNQ director of communications Katja Kathol. "The decline of accessible sexual and reproductive health services has further reinforced the importance of teaching students about safer sex practices, including how to best protect themselves from STIs."

Kathol said the network has noticed people wanting access to low-cost or free reproductive services, STI testing and other resources have had a harder time since the pandemic prompted closures and reduction of hours.

"That was the main thing we were noticing, and we wanted to put out some information about that and provide some alternatives that have remained open, so that our community can access them instead," said Kathol.

Young people in general hesitate to get tested for STIs, and the pandemic has increased this anxiety, Kathol said. 

"If you thought before was hard, I think people are avoiding it even more now, which is pretty dangerous," she said, adding that the long-term effects of avoiding testing could be very scary. "We're not sure in terms of the actual result, but we think there's actually a lot of cases that have not been discovered and people are avoiding it."

The network said that youth who receive education on sexual health are at a lower risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. The report provides information teachers can use to direct students to resources adding that the Centre de Sante des Femmes de Montreal, local CLSCs and other walk-in clinics remain open despite the pandemic, and can provide services.

"The youth population must become informed of best practices regarding sexual encounters to minimize their risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19," said Kathol. "For instance, it is now critical to ask your partners about who they have been in contact with – both sexually and socially."

Zoom and online check-ins are also an option for teachers, as well as informing students about mental health resources.

We are so proud to share this article written by Katja Kathol, our Communications Director. For the full article- visit out site at shnq.ca

Posted by The Sexual Health Network of Quebec on  Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Stigma surrounding STIs is well-known and the network said that it's similar to stigma and shame surrounding COVID-19 infected individuals.

"Sexual health education must emphasize transparency and communication between partners in an effort to decrease exposure," the release reads.

Students, parents and educators can contact Kids Help Phone line at 1-800-668-6868 to contact a counsellor. 

Kathol added that it's important for parents, in particular, to understand that sex ed is not just about safe sexual practices for young people.

"Sex ed gets kind of a taboo to begin with, so it's important to remind people that people often want their kids to have healthy relationships and have partners and grow up and they want grandkids, but they don't want everything else in between," she said. "So just keep an open mind and understand that sexual education does not just encompass sex. It encompasses consent, health, domestic abuse and sexual abuse; all these other important issues that people often overlook because of the name itself of sex education."

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