So, just how unsafe is unsafe-sex?
In short, very. The health risks of unsafe sex range from easily treatable things like warts and infections right up to incurable HIV/AIDs and infertility. For those of us lucky enough to have had a thorough education on sex and the dangers of going unprotected as well as easy access to medication and treatment, this isn’t new information. For a shockingly high percentage of the world’s population though, it’s a different story. So much so in fact that unsafe sex has become the fastest-growing risk factor for young people ages 10-24 over the past 23 years.
These findings come from a new Lancet report on the health and wellbeing of adolescents around the world published earlier this month. The report found that unsafe sex has risen from 13th place to 2nd as a risk factor for ill health in adolescents since 1990. So why the rise?
The answer, the report says, is relatively simple; we just aren’t investing enough in the education of future generations. Two-thirds of young people are currently growing up in countries where relatively easily preventable and treatable health problems like HIV/AIDs, early pregnancy and STIs, as well as other health risks such as depression, violence and obesity, aren’t seeing the necessary focus for their prevention.
George Patton, one of the chief authors of the study, suggests that while funding to health care services is vital, “the single best investment we can make is guaranteeing access to free, quality secondary education” , a sentiment that is echoed throughout. The study suggests that since adolescence is generally thought to be a healthy time of life, young people aren’t seeing the resources and education needed to protect their health and the health of future generations.
This is something that falls very much in-line with the values of MTV Staying Alive, our work with grass-roots, youth led organisations around the world aims to tackle lack of education on sexual health and HIV/AIDS for those who need it most, adolescents. The shockingly high rise in the risk factor of unsafe sex to the health of young people only further validates that more needs to be done. When you consider that 70% of adolescent girls have little to no education when it comes to HIV and knowing how to project themselves; the fact that unsafe sex is the 2nd highest risk factor for ill health isn’t quite so surprising.
So in answer to the question ‘Just how unsafe is unsafe-sex?’, the answer is – extremely unsafe, but the real answer is another question; why don’t more adolescents know just how unsafe?